AI-driven Wi-Fi supports learning and assessment in Virginia’s Smyth County

Families living in Smyth County, nestled in Southwest Virginia, have easy access to the mountains and the benefits of small-town living. Their children also have access to quality education and the latest educational technologies to help them reach their full potential.

Smyth County Public Schools relies on an AI-driven wireless network from Juniper to support learning and the state’s high-stakes educational assessments used to measure achievement. 


Company Smyth County Public Schools (Virginia)
Industry Education
Products used AP43AP32Wireless (Wi-Fi) Assurance
Region Americas
Smyth County Public Schools (Virginia) Hero
Customer Success At-a-glance


Students at 14 schools have access to digital learning resources


Devices connected to Wi-Fi 6


Chromebooks were identified in minutes as requiring software updates prior to the state’s educational assessment


Secure personal networks were created for teachers’ classrooms in 15 minutes 


Let AI-driven network operations take the lead

Terry Hawthorne, director of technology at Smyth County Public Schools, knew that cloud-managed networks were the future.

When the district’s legacy Wi-Fi solution became increasingly problematic, Hawthorne took action. All students have Chromebooks or tablets, but for many, the Wi-Fi regularly dropped, disrupting learning. One school in particular faced nagging issues with radio-frequency (RF) interference from the Wi-Fi in neighboring homes.

IT was spending significant time addressing wireless connectivity problems, leaving less time for strategic work.

The district evaluated its options for next-generation cloud-managed networking, and the Juniper Wireless Access solution, driven by Mist AI, took top honors.

“The ease of troubleshooting with Juniper and Mist AI tipped the scales,” says Hawthorne. “With Juniper, we get a heads up when a client is losing connectivity, and it’s much easier to troubleshoot RF interference.”

Smyth-county-public-schools Chellenge

Mist AI empowers IT to do more

With Juniper, Smyth County’s 14 schools have Wi-Fi that’s predictable, reliable, and measurable. The network provides connectivity for 10,000 wireless devices used by the county’s 4100 students, as well as teachers and administrators.

Juniper cloud services, including Juniper Mist Wi-Fi Assurance and Juniper Marvis Virtual Network Assistant, provide IT with clear visibility into the quality of user experiences. The AI capabilities quickly identify any issues and accelerate resolution, alleviating the IT team’s workload.

Frustrations over slow Wi-Fi and unexpected dropouts have all but disappeared. IT no longer spends time chasing RF ghosts. Instead, Juniper’s AI-driven radio resource management continuously learns and optimizes the RF environment, taking into account nearby wireless LANs and other external sources of interference.

“With the older Wi-Fi, we had to fiddle with the power settings on the APs,” says Hawthorne. “With Juniper, we set up the device profiles and haven’t touched them since.”

Teachers can more easily use smart TVs, 3D printers, and other devices in their classrooms. The district uses Juniper’s private pre-shared key functionality, which operates similarly to passwords, to set up secure personal LANs for teachers.

“We didn’t have the ability to do that before,” says Hawthorne. He created a Python script that generated 920 private encryption keys in 15 minutes, which he then imported into the Mist dashboard. “It was so easy to create personal LANs,” he says.

Smyth-county-public-schools Solution

Empowering learners and supporting state assessments

When students and teachers returned to the classroom in 2021, many of the digital learning habits from early in the pandemic carried over, such as greater reliance on the learning management system and video. A Juniper network allows the IT team at Smyth County schools to meet those higher bandwidth requirements more efficiently.

“We can support more devices with the same number of IT people because the Juniper wireless is so stable and easy to troubleshoot,” says Hawthorne.

Even the intensive technology preparation for Virginia’s annual standards of learning (SOL) assessment is easier. Devices used for the online tests must meet certain requirements. If the device requirements aren’t met, the student cannot access the test.

“Our IT technician wrote a simple query for the Mist dashboard,” says Hawthorne. “We saw that 114 Chromebooks needed to be updated so there wouldn’t be problems during testing. A simple reboot to update to the latest ChromeOS was all that was necessary.”

Smyth-county-public-schools Outcome
“With Juniper and Mist AI, we spend very little time troubleshooting wireless connections.”
Terry Hawthorne Director of Technology, Smyth County Public Schools

Published June  2022