The Manhattan-Ogden school board on Wednesday will discuss a network security system purchase.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Robinson Education Center.

The board will consider purchasing updated digital network security programming from CDW-G of Chicago, Illinois, for $138,005. Agenda documents indicate an effort from district technology staffers to bolster security against malware and ransomware attacks because of “the increase in the number of bad actors that can cause issues with little or no technical background.” The district would pay for the program with its annual software budget and would upgrade the network security system already in place.

This topic appears on the district agenda just days after Pottawatomie County officials announced they had paid a ransom to hackers who attacked the county government’s computer systems and took them offline for about two weeks. Pottawatomie County officials paid $71,250 to hackers and $356.25 in exchange fees to facilitate the cyber currency payment; the hackers asked for a $1 million ransom, county officials said.

Board members also will learn more about a proposal to purchase 500 new iPads and 200 additional internet hotspots to be checked out through district schools. District agenda documents indicate USD 383 administrators applied for a grant for Emergency Connectivity Funds (ECF) through the American Rescue Plan Act. As of Sept. 24, the district was awarded $193,563 in ECF money to pay for the new iPads from Apple, Inc., and hotspots from T-Mobile. The district will front $5,000 for a wireless network extension from Maryland-based education telecommunications provider Kajeet.

This purchase continues the school district’s plan for providing digital devices to students on a 1:1 ratio. The board approved the 1:1 plan last summer during the height of the pandemic. In March 2020, district officials gathered information from parents and staff about their access to technology and broadband internet. According to the survey, about 775 students did not have access to digital devices, while about 525 students did not have adequate internet access, out of approximately 6,300 students across the district.

Prior to the meeting, the board will have an executive session regarding school security at 6:15 p.m. No other details on the executive session were provided in the district agenda.