Board approves bid allowing One-to-One expansion
Seventh- and eighth-graders at Woodford County Middle School will be provided computer tablets next school year after the Board of Education approved the purchase of Chromebooks, which will allow the school district to expand its One-to-One program. Board member Sherri Springate voted no to the motion on Monday night to purchase Chromebooks for six grade levels at a cost of $467,160. The cost will come out of the district's contingency fund for one-time purchases, according to schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins. "To be able to expand (the One-to-One program) down into grades seven and eight, I think, is exciting. Because now that's over 600 more students that we're going to be able to provide that resource . that tool to help them in their learning," said Hawkins in a telephone interview on Tuesday. He said providing a computer tablet device to more students supports the district's ongoing efforts to better-prepare students. At the board's planning meeting last week, Vice Chair Debby Edelen questioned the wisdom of expanding the One-to-One program when the district doesn't have any real evidence showing student achievement gains because a computer tablet is being put in the hands of every high school student. Edelen did not attend Monday night's board meeting. She was with the Woodford County High School academic team at the Kentucky Governor's Cup finals in Louisville. Chromebooks are being used as a pilot program in a limited number of middle school classrooms this year. "Teachers are able to do some things differently because they've got those devices in the classroom," said Hawkins. "Students are able to do things a little differently because they've got those devices in the classroom. And the feedback from those teachers has been very, very positive." Chromebooks are about half the cost of the iPads currently being used by high school students, according to Hawkins. And he said the growing number of operating system updates for the Apple devices basically shortens the usable life of those computer tablets to about three years. Additionally, Hawkins said teachers are able to have a little bit more control in terms of monitoring what students are accessing on Chromebook computer tablets. The Board of Education will be asked to approve a bid to purchase teacher Chromebooks at a later meeting, likely in April. The delay was prompted by the district's unfamiliarity with the devices included in the most favorable bid, Hawkins said. "Our two lowest bids were actually two devices that I've never put my hands on," Director of Technology Bob Gibson told board members. "So that's one of the reasons we're reluctant (to proceed with recommending a bid) at this time." Refinance bonds The board voted unanimously to refinance bonds that paid the cost of Huntertown Elementary School's renovation project. Its action will save the district approximately $500,000 over the next 12 years, according to information provided to board members by Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith. HVAC systems Two crews have begun preliminary work on replacing the aging HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems at Southside and Northside elementary schools. Hawkins said more extensive work will occur over spring break. Once students return on April 4, contractors will work in the evening, he said. "Primarily that work is going to take place in our hallways," said Hawkins. "They won't really get into classroom spaces until after school is out" for the year. The work will occur simultaneously at both elementary schools, he added. In February, the Board of Education approved a $3.106 million bid on an HVAC system replacement project for Northside and Southside. Marrillia Design & Construction's bid was the lowest of three bids, and significantly lower than the projected cost of replacing the HVAC systems at the elementary schools.