When students across the Newton Community School District head back to class this fall they’ll find new computers waiting for them.
The district’s board of education voted to spend $362,628 on new computers, iPads and interactive projectors during their meeting Monday night. The money for the upgrades will come out the district’s technology budget.
Three different bidders were chosen to supply the devices. With Apple products only available directly through Apple, they were chosen to supply the iPads, submitting a bid of $197,000 for the 500 iPads.
The intent is to upgrade the district’s oldest models, which West Academy Principal Bret Miller estimates have an average lifespan of three to four years.
The board also approved the purchase of 420 Chromebooks, with 264 of the lower-cost computers intended for use at Berg Middle School. Seventy of the remaining Chromebooks will be sent to West Academy, where the district plans to create a pilot program to compare them against the iPads currently in use by high school students.
Miller told board members during the meeting Monday he’s had success with the Chromebooks at West, and he wants to explore the feasibility of replacing the Apple tablets with Chromebooks for high school students.
“I feel like it’s more beneficial for students to use the Chromebooks at West. I feel like it’s more efficient,” Miller said. “I think it’s a chance for us to pilot a program.”
Board President Travis Padget said he’s open to piloting the use of Chromebooks instead of iPads at the high school. Monday, he questioned whether or not the district should consider purchasing 500 iPads if they’re seriously considering switching to the Chromebooks.
“One of the things we talked about was staging them out, because they have a three- to four-year life, and this seems like a large chunk of them, so that seems short sighted to me,” Padget said.
Miller told board members the decision to purchase additional iPads was made due to the timing of a potential switch from to Chromebooks. While the idea has gained traction across the district, the pilot program at West Academy won’t begin until next year, leaving a possible switch still years away.
“We know we’re four years out, this would keep us running,” Miller said.
The Chromebooks will be supplied by Best Buy, who submitted a bid of $131,308 for the 420 machines. In addition to functioning as a standard laptop, each of the Chromebooks features a touch screen, allowing the device to be used a tablet. Being able to use the Chromebooks both as a laptop and as a tablet offers a significant versatility, Miller said.
“Having that touchscreen is huge,. They’re going to be able to just do their work right there on the Chromebook and submit them to the teacher,” Miller said.
The district will also make technology upgrades at each of their four elementary schools by purchasing an additional 20 interactive projectors, to be split equally among the campuses. Midwest Computer Products was the low bidder. Board members awarded them a contract for $34,320 Monday night.
The district previously installed a first round of 20 projectors in elementary school classrooms last August. This addition will bring the total number of projectors to 60. According to NCSD Superintendent Bob Callaghan, the move will put an interactive projector in every kindergarten through fourth-grade classroom in the district. Miller said some principals opted to use building funds to purchase additional projectors.
“I think there’s two that will be paid for out of the building’s money, there are principals that want to speed up the process,” Miller said. “The principals asked to be added to that. We just put it in the same bid so we’d get the best pricing.”
Board member Donna Cook said she’d prefer to see the district use funds from its technology budget to purchase the projectors, rather than seeing principals use building funds for the devices. Cook asked Miller to bring a breakdown showing the location of each projector to the next board meeting.
“I think we need to know what the percentages are at our next meeting,” Cook said. “It just gives me more questions.”
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