Falmouth schools seek $435K for technology

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FALMOUTH — The School Department outlined a proposed $435,000 technology budget for the 2016-2017 school year at a School Board workshop Monday night.

Nate Barnes, the department’s technology director, said the proposed budget is $57,000 larger than what was expected last year as part of a multi-year projection.

To make up the difference, department heads are proposing to use $30,000 from protection plans for rental fees, with the remainder coming from a holding account. No single item was pointed to as the reason for the increase.

Some of the larger items in the budget include approximately $86,000 to upgrade and increase network wireless access points in the schools. Barnes said that is down from last year’s estimate of $125,000, due to hardware costs declines and the ability to use hardware that was “not top of the line.”

This year the department implemented a pilot program in third grade, where every student had an iPad. Teachers at the workshop said this program has been successful. Under the budget proposal, each student in fourth and fifth grades will also have their own device.

Students in fifth grade, who now share iPads,will receive Google Chromebooks. Their iPads will go to fourth-graders.

Barnes said Chromebooks are less expensive than iPads, although that was not the reason for the choice. Ryan Gleason, an assistant principal at the elementary school, said the school felt Chromebooks would be “more versatile” in content creation for the students.

The total cost of the one-device-per-student plan is $50,400. There are also line items in the proposal to get iPads into kindergarten through second grade, though not at a 1-1 ratio. For kindergarten, the budget calls for $36,000. For first grade, it is $40,000, and for second grade it’s $44,000.

Barnes said they aren’t planning to replace iPads for K-2 staff. The devices will be used for the sixth year, which Barnes said is usually outside their lifespan. However, he said they “don’t think this is the year” to replace them.

All the district’s printers also need to be replaced, he said, at a total cost of $58,000. Additionally, the elementary school computer lab needs to be replaced for a listed cost of $36,000. Barnes said this will include moving away from current desktop computers and to a laptop computer and cart model.

There is also a proposal to replace the projectors in the middle and high schools at a cost of $37,500.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.