AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

No downtime on learning – Prince William County Public Schools commitment to the cloud

Recalling back to when he was a teacher, Andy Wolfenbarger, Supervisor of Student Information Systems at the Department of Information Technology Services at Prince William County Public Schools, was pulling triple duty – coaching football and tennis on top of teaching his four high school classes. With grades due, Andy had a small block of time after school to get them in. But unbeknownst to him, the switch in the network closet next to him needed to be upgraded. In the middle of inputting his grades, the system went dark.

Now, as Supervisor of Student Information Systems, Andy’s job is to make sure that situation doesn’t happen to any of the 12,500 teachers and 90,000 students in Prince William County Public Schools. To improve reliability and availability, Andy is leading the migration of their student information system (SIS) with Edupoint Synergy hosted in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud.

“One of the biggest pain points for teachers is going home and doing grades. They never know what is going to happen. Teachers might log in with a magic combination of things (browser, java, etc.), it might work and it might not,” said Andy. “Our goal is to create an environment where students, parents, and teachers can log in from anywhere, anytime.”

As the team was exploring their options for upgrading their SIS, they ruled out a self-managed, on-premises solution, which would be cost prohibitive and not as agile and dynamic as going to the cloud.  Instead, they worked with Edupoint Synergy hosted in AWS. The cloud offers availability, reliability, and security – all at a low cost.

Hosted on AWS, the District’s SIS will still be accessible even with a building power outage. The system can autoscale to handle high-demand usage times, such as end of grading periods. In addition, the team can build something new in the cloud, keep their old systems running, and then cut over, with no disruption to our stakeholders.

 “We did not have concerns about going to AWS. Actually, we felt that there was an improvement in security with AWS as compared to our on-premises infrastructure – both physically and technologically,” said Andy.

Andy skilled up on AWS, taking and passing the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam, which has given him the confidence to experiment. This confidence has led the district to innovate in other areas, including spinning up a few Amazon EC2 instances for pilot projects, adding cloud-based network monitoring, and hosting their external Domain Name System (DNS) records using Amazon Route 53.

Across your district, learn how the AWS Cloud can help improve teaching and learning.