Concrete block building. Do I give up?

I am the IT department for a small, private school with a tiny budget (the school's budget is tiny that is, the IT budget for the school is nonexistent). We are housed in a building built circa 1960-something. The construction on both external and internal walls is concrete block. To add to the problem, there is suspended ceiling everywhere (this is both a blessing--I can get access to the ceiling--and a curse--all the metal framework and wires wreaks havoc on wireless signals).

We have 2 separate wired networks in the building (at one time the building was inhabited by 2 different organizations). I'm trying to bridge these networks together wirelessly. I installed Linksys WAPs on the switches of both networks and configured them to bridge. They communicated just flawlessly for 4 months. The school was closed for 2 weeks at Christmas time and when we came back from break we started having nothing but problems with the wireless bridge. It is like someone flipped a switch. I know no one has been messing with them as I am the only one who touches them and knows how to access the on-line setup. They are all WEP protected.

I have replaced the antennae on 2 of the WAPs with high gain ones and installed yet another WAP as a range extender and also have a range expander installed to try to help keep things connected with limited success. I'm beginning to think that the only solution for me is to run a wire from one side of the building to the other to connect the switches of the wired networks. Of course, the one area where there is not suspended ceiling is the room I need to run a cable across to connect them. That ceiling is some sort of tile with limited attic access. Also, it may border on being more than 100 feet.

Anyone BTDT and have any advice? Are there WAPs made for concrete buildings? Do I just give up and run a cable? My users have been very patient to this point but I suspect the patience is wearing thin.
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  1. I am not an expert in wireless site survey or testing. Here are my tiny bits and pieces:

    - I would look into some strategies and recommended practices in CWNA certification. Go and pick up a book about that cert and you might find something useful.

    - Maybe buy, if you can afford, a signal strength tester (expensive) and test to see different areas of the site.

    - From what I understand, I believe you are using omni-directional antennas in all of your APs. Try using "directional" antennas, usually external ones that you can connect to the AP. For i.e, place the AP inside the building, wired it out to the dir. antenna on top of the building and connect to another external antenna (and identical setup) in other building, so they will be communicating open in the air.

    There is one CWNA member here in this forums, gstefanick. Maybe he can give you more info. Let us know if things work out!
  2. I agree with the reply given by the JustAGuy51.
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