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District 54 moving forward with technology initiative

Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 8:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014 9:00 p.m. CDT

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MORRIS – The District 54 Technology Vision Committee gave a 1:1 device presentation to the school board at its meeting this week, presenting the information gathered to move forward with the district’s 1:1 technology program.

“We believe in inspiring our 21st century students to meet challenges by enabling them to adapt and succeed in a constantly progressing, evolving and changing technological world,” fifth-grade teacher Kelsey Castanier said.

The committee researched what was available in White Oak and Shabbona schools and set out to find which device would work best as the district moves forward with the initiative of providing every student a computer.

Committee members reached out to teachers in other districts who are using technology with every student, as well as asked the district’s teachers what they need.

The committee chose the Chromebook, because members felt it would better serve students. Members explained to the board that the device instantly connects to the Internet, and the students would be able to open it and have access in seconds versus the current 5 to 15 minutes it takes a class to get online when a teacher checks out one of the district’s laptop carts.

The device also works with apps, and would have GPS monitoring, so if one is lost or stolen it could be located as soon as it is turned on. The device also updates automatically and work would be stored online versus on a hard drive, so it can be accessed from different computers and devices.

Students would have to fill out a form and tell the group why they want to download an app they want on their device before it is approved to be added.

The board approved the purchase of 100 Chromebooks to be handed out this week to all full-time certified teachers to get the project underway.

“We want to build excitement,” sixth-grade teacher Mike Sand said. “When we hand out the 100 Chromebooks to the staff they will show the students what they are going to learn on and the excitement will build.”

Superintendent Teri Shaw said the district is budgeting the purchases over fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016, with no budgeting in fiscal years 2017 or 2018, because officials aren’t sure about the future needs.

“We had a conversation about priorities and transferring TIF funds to education or using it for Shabbona wall and roof projects,” Shaw said. “Whatever is left, we will put in the capital improvement fund.”

She said district officials discussed a technology fee of $50 to the students to cover insurance on the devices if they get dropped or lost.

She presented a budget funding sheet detailing the costs to the district over the next six years.

The cost of 450 Chromebooks for grades three, four and five in the 2014-15 school year would be $127,500, and the cost of 450 Chromebooks for grades six, seven and eight would be $127,500 in school year 2015-16.

There would be additional expenses in both years for curriculum and for initial infrastructure in the 2014-2015 school year.

The budget funding projection she showed the board members showed TIF Revenues of $225,000 for each year, and a total expenditure of $214,600 for devices and curriculum in school year 2014-15; a total expenditure of $203,600 devices and curriculum in school year 2015-16; a total expenditure of $110,000 for curriculum in 2016-2017; no expenses in school year 2017-18; and purchase of new Chromebooks in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, at the cost of $101,100 each year.

The goal is that each child in District 54 will have their own device assigned to them to work on both at school and at home.

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