School board trustees decided to slow down their approach to making a financial commitment regarding a district-wide increase in technology devices.
Trustees were asked at Monday night's school board meeting to designate $4.5 million to reach the 1:1 student to device ratio but decided to delay the vote for fuller consideration on the matter.
All trustees supported the move to a 1:1 device to student radio, but were not comfortable designating an amount from the fund balance without time to consider the presentation given at the meeting. Todd Hemphill, president of the trustee board, said trustees will consider the options presented at the meeting, return with questions at the Oct. 17 meeting and possibly vote on the item at the Nov. 14 meeting.
"We all support this. The way this board works is we take recommendations, present, analyze, take action," Hemphill said. "October or November, that will give us time to boil it down, ask questions."
Ensuring each student has access to an Ipad, laptop or similar devices for learning purposes in the classroom and possibly at home is important to creating the best, modern learning environment for students, said superintendent Lane Ledbetter.
"To me, this is something we have to do for our students. This is not innovative, this is what kids deserve," Ledbetter said.
Designating this money too carelessly right before a bond election will also send a bad message to voters, said trustee Carl Smith.
"If we just set the bond issue aside, which we cannot, if the bond issue wasn't out there, we could move forward on this. We are all set to go, but make no mistake, whatever we do here will have some sort of impact on the people who will vote on this bond," Smith said. "I don't think it will hurt this program to slow down 45 days. We are approaching the largest bond issue this district has ever seen, so we have to approach this very carefully."
The move to 1:1 devices was originally included in the originally proposed $320 million bond but trustees asked that the devices be cut from the bond when it was reduced to the $268 million that will actually go to voters in November, said Ashley Stewart, assistant superintendent of learning, innovation, and planning. Instead, trustees asked the device issue be brought to them as a separate issue to be funded out of the district's fund balance, its saving's account.
After evaluating the district's teachers and students to grasp their willingness to embrace increased technology in the classroom and feelings of responsibility to care for devices entrusted to them at school or home, Russ Johnson, chief executive officer of True North Consulting Group, suggested in a presentation to trustees on Monday that the district look a variety of steps to reach 1:1 ration and allow all students equal access.
True North does not sell devices nor have any financial incentive to recommend any devices or systems, Johnson said. It only collects data and provides suggested approaches to achieve a stated goal.
The district currently has many devices that could stay in use for several years, reducing the number of devices that must be bought or leased outright, he said. The district could also set up a system where students have the option of using a school-provided the device or using a personal device they bring with them under the current bring your own device policy.
The benefits of each child having their own device are allowing teachers the ability to help each child learn at their own level and provide learning and exploration opportunists for some students while students who are struggling getting needed one-on-one time with the teachers. This results in less wasted class time, he said.
If the district allows students to take school devices home, it extends their access to learning opportunities, Johnson said.
Students who are using a school-provided device could be charged a once a year service fee to cover the cost of repairs or minor damage, he said, which could wave on an individual basis for those who have a financial hardship.
The school district would also put in place policies to handle missing and broken devices that would involve the student or family remembering the district for the device, Stewart said.
Johnson presented three hypothetical models for price consideration. Many steps like leasing instead of purchasing or bulk discounts could be used to reduce the cost, he clarified.
Model 1, where each child is provided an Ipad, would cost about $4.6 million. Model 2, where high schoolers are provided a laptop and elementary and middle schoolers are provided Ipads, would cost about $5.4 million. Model 3, where elementary students are provided Ipads, middle schoolers Chromebooks and high schoolers Macbooks, would cost about $4.9 million.
Device lifespan is currently anticipated at 3-5 years, he said, so the district would need to consider how old devices would be replaced.
The district would need to pass and bond in the future to support additional infrastructure to support the increased technology use in the future if the November bond does not pass, Stewart said, but is currently able to support the immediate increase a 1:1 ration would bring at this point.
"It is my understanding that we could conformable do this for 3-4 years with the infrastructure we have," Ledbetter said.
Even if trustees vote to designate the money in November, the money would not be spent until after a complete device plan and policies were reviewed and approved by the board, trustee Heather Prather said.
"This is just an earmark, this is something that the committee will use to get a good look at the cost and best use for the budget," she said.
The program could also be used to allow students to get hands-on experience in the maintenance and customer service fields helping keep the devices up and running and answering questions, Stewart said.
Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.