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July 22, 2013

Timing of tech upgrade debated

New Albany-Floyd County schools mull One-to-One laptop initiative

NEW ALBANY — While students in Greater Clark County Schools were getting used to their Chromebook laptop computers on Monday, New Albany-Floyd County School Corp. officials are still mulling a technology plan.

The issue came to the forefront last week during a discussion about the breakdown in spending of a proposed general obligation bond, of which a big chunk is slated for technology upgrades.

George Gauntt, a member of the district’s school board, asked superintendent Bruce Hibbard if the plan to begin a One-to-One initiative — which would put computers in the hands of every student in the district — was coming sooner rather than later and whether the computers would replace books.

Hibbard said it wasn’t so simple to start the program. While the hardware and software would be ready for the district, he said moving textbooks to electronic form becomes more complicated.

About $900,000 of the $2 million bond is marked for technology upgrades, including centralized servers, expanded storage space and more wireless access points.

Greater Clark County Schools adopted a One-to-One program and began issuing 8,000 Samsung Google Chromebooks to students in grades 3-12 on Monday.

When such an initiative might happen in New Albany-Floyd County schools is up for debate. Hibbard said in the last two years, the district has adopted new books, which require long-term contracts. He said even though the goal is to eliminate hard copies, they’re locked into those rental fees for six years on each set.

Hibbard added it would be difficult to justify telling parents to spend the extra money on electronic versions while also paying for hard copies.

Gauntt said if the district’s hands are tied in the matter, they may have to make that decision anyway.

“It sounds like from what [Hibbard is] saying, there’s not going to be any way we’re going to be able to get to that point without some input [monetarily],” Gauntt said. “At one point, we’re going to have to bite the bullet, so to speak, and pay for books and computers all at the same time.”

Hibbard said even though that was likely the case, it wouldn’t be so bad to have both resources. While textbooks would still get used, the electronic counterparts would have other media, such as videos, associated with the same lessons.

Gauntt asked when the conversation about adopting electronic formats begins seriously.

Hibbard said most likely, talks with English teachers would start next school year about whether to adopt electronic versions or hard copies.

But the proposed budget for electronics also came under scrutiny from board member Mark Boone.

He asked Sal Costanzo, director of technology, how much of the equipment and software listed was absolutely needed and how much would be nice to have.

Costanzo said while the additional wireless access points — mostly for the administrative services buildings — were the only thing he considered optional, the security upgrades, centralized servers and expanded storage space were must-haves.

A resolution to sell the bond is scheduled for a vote at the board’s Aug. 12 meeting.

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