TCSS to vote on laptops

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Troup County School Board is expected to vote Thursday on how to proceed with the school system’s current One-to-One Initiative, which has a final goal of supplying all students with a laptop computer. 

Josh Moneypenny, the director of technology for the Troup County School System, gave a presentation on the school system’s effort to eventually assign all students a laptop for in-school and out-of-school-use. The effort started in 2015 when the Georgia Digital Classroom Act was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal and strongly encouraged school boards to purchase digital instructional materials and to provide students with a wireless device to read it on.

Last month, the school board voted to purchase 650 Dell 5190 2-in-1 Chromebooks from Virtucom for $325,155 for Clearview Elementary School. Now, the board is considering a purchase of 6,000 Dell Chromebooks from Virtucom for a total price of $2,748,000 for laptops that would be used throughout the school system. The district’s initial One to One phase is to target all sixth graders through twelfth graders. Virtucom was the lowest of the three bidders by more than $100,000.

“What is the estimated total rollout of this entire initiative?” asked school board member Brandon Brooks. “$2.7 million here, we spent some money last month. There’s going to be some more money for the [kindergarten through second grade] possibly.”

Moneypenny estimated about 3,000 addtional Chromebooks would need to be purchased, after the 6,000 currently requested were purchased. According to the agenda from the November 2017 board meeting, the estimated completion date for the rollout was June 2019 and the total cost was $3.5 million. It was brought up as part of the system’s Continuous School Improvement Plan.

“Would it be fair to assume since textbooks are so outrageously expensive that the money we would save on textbooks would be significant?” asked school board member Cathy Hunt.

Moneypenny said the school system will be spending about the same amount of money on computers as it normally does.

“I know this sounds like a lot of money, but we have been spending this year after year on computers,” Moneypenny said. “The average computer is two, two and a half, maybe three times — depending on what it’s used for — the cost of a Chromebook. Currently we support about 6,000 student computers, so going to 9,000 Chromebooks, we are actually spending about the same.”

Moneypenny said the current goal is to provide Chromebooks to every student in third grade and above. Older Chromebooks will be used as spares, in case a student forgets their laptop at home, or to replace a broken Chromebook while it’s under repair. The older laptops will also be used in Kindergarten-second grade classrooms, so that those students can learn on them as well.

The Chromebooks include a four-year warranty that covers hardware, but Moneypenny said the school system will also purchase the accidental damage protection plan that also covers four years.

“Having their own device will create a sense of ownership for [students], as they know this is a device they are going to have with them for the next few years, so hopefully they’ll take a little bit better care knowing they have the same Chromebook,” Moneypenny said.

Moneypenny said when the initiative is finalized, it’s estimated that 47 computer labs in the district can be transitioned back into normal classrooms.

Board Chairman Keith Hancock appeared in favor of the purchase of the Chromebooks but wished the board had been brought into discussions earlier.

“My disappointment comes from the board not being brought into this at the onset,” Hancock said. “We are now at the very conclusion. If we don’t do this, we aren’t going to launch in the fall, on time. The first we really heard about it is three weeks ago. This is a massive, positive initiative. I’m very enthusiastic about it, but I feel like the board has a much more important role in that journey.”

The board meets again Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at 100 North David Road, Building C.