New computers will soon be in use in the Challis School District with the anticipated receipt of a $108,984 grant.
The money, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, will help the district meet its goal of having one Chromebook per student at the secondary level and pay for more new computers for elementary students, teachers and board members. Plans call for buying 195 Chromebooks for students and teachers in grades 6-12 this year.
School board Chairman Brett Plummer said when personnel from the state school board association notified him of the grant program, he was assured Challis would receive the grant.
The Chromebooks will have locks to prevent students from installing apps or programs that aren’t approved by school officials, Lance Moss, with Nuvek, the district’s IT contractor, told school board members last week.
“I basically lock them down to being able to only use Office 365,” while at school, Moss said. But students can take the tablets home and those limitations might not remain in place. Part of the objective of getting a tablet in each student’s hands is to allow for remote learning when necessary and to have an option for students who might be out sick to keep up with their class work.
“We have a good handle on inventory, capabilities and use of the computers,” Moss reported at last week’s school board meeting. Based on that information, he’s developed a computer replacement plan. It calls for having new computers for school district staff, replacing computers used by teachers once they are are three or four years old and rotating older computers into sites within schools where they are used only for Internet access.
Moss said 30 new machines will be purchased this year, 25 next year and then between 15 and 20 each year after that.
That will mean a change in some classrooms, he cautioned school board members. Typically one classroom has only one model of computers in it, not different models with different capabilities.
“I know the teachers liked it all being the same,” he said, “but having some faster computers is a good idea.” And, he said, eventually, classrooms will “be a lot closer to them all being the same.”
Money will also be spent this year to upgrade servers and service contracts, Moss said.
Some of the grant money will also pay for a mentor and professional development to learn the Microsoft Teams platform, Superintendent Lani Rembelski said. Microsoft Team and Power School can be synced, Moss said, which means school employees won’t have to double-enter some data because the programs will automatically transfer information from Office 365 to Power School.
“I’m still looking into that,” Moss said. “I know I’m running out of time.”