Chromebooks: How Paid For? Why Before All-Day K?

by | Mar 9, 2015

chromebookSome parents have raised questions over the Chromebook budget line item: Was that $60,000 coming out of the Technology Fund Balance being used to pay for repairs of uninsured devices? And, how did the high school get Chromebooks before all-day kindergarten was implemented?

The short answer to the first question is, no. The short answer to the second question is, there was a subcommittee looking at technology issues since 2009 but no one was looking into all-day K.

With regard to repairs, the district has spent around $2,500 on repairs for uninsured Chromebooks, according to school officials. Supt. Victor Mercurio said the district was seeking reimbursement for the cost of those repairs.

When the implementation of Chromebooks was approved last spring, it was for a three-year lease plan at a cost of $110,000 a year. That figure was split between two parts of the overall EGSD budget, with some of the money coming from the Technology Fund Balance, a specific fund set up to pay for computer-type devices, and the rest coming from regular operating expenses.

In the first year (this school year), $80,000 came out of the tech fund and $30,000 came out of the regular budget. For next year, $60,000 is slated to come out of the tech fund and $50,000 out of the regular budget. In year three, the plan is for $30,000 to come out of the tech fund and $80,000 come out of the regular budget.

According to the district’s technology integration specialist, Donna Wayles, less than 10 percent of Chromebooks have needed repair. Of those needing repair, she said, fewer than 1o have not been insured. The school district offering insurance on the devices at $31 for one year, $89 for three years (with no deductible).

Broken screens have been the biggest issue. Because they are touch screens, replacing them is expensive – $270, said Wayles. The total cost of a new Chromebook (without all the school district software) is just over $300.

Interestingly, nearly all the devices with broken screens did not have covers. Covers were an optional $30 purchase through the school or students could buy their own, or go without. Only one Chromebook with a cover has need a screen repair.

“Obviously, that’s pretty compelling evidence,” said Mercurio. “We need to look at that some more,” as to whether or not covers should be part of the Chromebook package. Currently, if a student with financial need wants a cover, the school refers them to outside entities for help. There is no mechanism in place to provide covers or insurance for students with financial need.

Because of the expense of repairing touch screens, Wayles said the plan for 1:1 implementation at Cole Middle School – which is pretty much off the table for next year’s budget – is to buy Chromebooks without them. The cost to repair a non-touch-screen device is $50 and can probably be done within the district.

As for how giving every high school student a computer device got ahead of all-day kindergarten, Supt. Mercurio noted that there’s been a technology committee in existence since 2009. Alternatively, the ad hoc committee for all-day kindergarten was formed in 2014.

“I don’t think it was purposeful to put one in front of the other,” Mercurio said. The then-School Committee voted 6-1 in favor of 1:1 at the high school a year ago, with Deidre Gifford casting the lone “no” vote.

When asked if having a strategic plan would have been helpful before that vote was taken, Mercurio said, “I think having a strategic plan is something that would provide the kind of direction where you’d be able to clarify what happens next in terms of priority.”

The School Committee meets Tuesday night to continue discussions on the fiscal year 2016 budget; a vote is on the agenda.


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9 Comments

  1. Tricia Colgan

    Thank you for writing an article to clarify misinformation on Chromebook repairs and costs that have been milling around.

    Reply
  2. Bridget Hayes

    While the adhoc full-day K committee was formed in 2014, I learned while working with this group that a longer kindergarten day has been explored years before under a different administration, with a different group of people, but was not acted upon. This truly highlights the need and importance for a strategic plan when there are always so many competing priorities.

    Reply
  3. Michelle

    I find it hard to believe that the school district never looked into Full Day K prior to forming the subcommittee in 2014. Is there an archive of School Board agenda’s that is public, if not, who would be able to research whether this was on the table in other years? I have heard that Full Day K was discussed at least 10 years ago.

    Reply
    • Cheri Moss

      Full Day K has been up for discussion for at least 15 years, going back to when my oldest started afternoon kindergarten in 2000. It has always been a topic of discussion but never implemented because of a multitude of other competing priorities.

      Reply
      • Heather Larkin

        Like Sheri said, it’s been discussed for years but has never gone beyond idle talk (mostly among parents) until now. Bridget, I don’t remember the prior superintendent or school committees exploring full day K. The expectations have changed for Kindergarteners in the last few years which has changed the lens we look through when we talk about it. I don’t believe trying to look backward and find out whether it was on or off the table at some point or why other programs might have been higher priority is helpful at all.

        Reply
  4. Heather Larkin

    Yes, thank you. It made no sense that so much had been spent on repairs. Good for people to know that the Chromebooks didn’t appear out of nowhere, lots of time was spent researching the idea.

    Reply
  5. Yaohua Zhang

    Elizabeth, Thanks for the information. I wish this information($2,500) was presented to the SC and public at the technology budget workshop. It was difficult to find the technology budget on egsd.net. According to the revised version, unbudgeted repair on the uninsured chrome books is $5,000. It also proposed $20,000 chrome book damage/repair for Cole 1:1 implementation. You mentioned $2,500 repair cost for EGHS. It seems to be a floating number. Furthermore, I am confused again(I thought the district cleared the confusion at the technology budget workshop). Why the district proposed $20,000 chrome book damage/repair when it only cost $2,500 for EGHS? The SC members’ question at the technology workshop was the other way around because they thought the $20,000 repair/damage cost for Cole was not enough when the district needed $60,000 for EGHS. I wish SC meetings were recorded so we could go back to verify the information.

    Reply
  6. Leanne Barrett

    I remember there was a town wide electronic survey re: need for full-day kindergarten at some point between 2000 and 2004. East Greenwich is behind the state and the nation in providing access to full-day kindergarten. 81% of children in our state have full-day K. Getting children started on a firm foundation by providing high-quality, developmentally-appropriate full-day K should be our top priority.

    Reply
  7. Yaohua Zhang

    District technology director told SC today that there was $5,000 un-recovered repair cost. He also told SC that district proposed $20,000 repair and damage budget for the next school year. I applaud Dr. Sun for raising the repair cost topic again at the SC meeting. Almost every School Committee member asked good questions. They have taxpayer’s best interest in their heart. Hopefully, most of this budget can be moved to the valuable education program in our great schools. Thank you School Committee members!

    Reply

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