MISD approves $250,000 for new tech
The Marlin Independent School District Board of Managers met on Thursday, March 19, for their regularly scheduled meeting, which happened to be just after the coronavirus scandal hit the community.
The meeting was available for public viewership by teleconference as Gov. Greg Abott suspended the part of the Texas Open Meetings Act that guarantees the public can access and participate in government meetings on Monday, March 16.
Adam LeJeune, the Director of Technology for MISD, presented research he had composed on how purchasing technology for students’ use at home would greatly benefit the district as a whole.
“We have some connectivity issues in the community,” LeJeune said. “We’ve done some household surveys; many of them don’t have any internet access at all.”
The district has been sending out both virtual and physical assignments in order to attempt to fill this connectivity gap, but would like to minimize the paper-trading, as the packets could potentially carry the virus back to the teachers. LeJeune put forth the idea of getting additional Chromebooks for those without access to a computer, along with hotspots for students lacking internet access at their residence.
He made his presentation looking for guidelines on what he would be allowed to spend and direction on what the board felt was the best avenue to pursue.
“We’re hoping to use some funds to fill the emergency needs of the community,” LeJuene said. “Our preliminary data shows that 60 percent do not have internet at home.”
There was vivid discussion among all members of the board as to what is necessary for this emergency and a realistic price range of what the necessary parts would cost.
Interim Superintendent Jean Bahney stated during the meeting that she had already authorized the maximum she could to support the emergency education of students, which was later named to be $24,999.
Because only preliminary research had been done, exact numbers were not available for total need, but 384 Chromebooks are currently owned and being used by the district.
LeJeune brought forth three options for hotspots that varied in price, speed, and usage. All contracts were for 250 hotspots. The board decided to go with T-mobile, saving the district about $32,000 by choosing a 24-month contract versus a 12-month one.
After more intense deliberation, the board opted to give a maximum amount to spend as a guideline instead of mandating a specific amount of devices be purchased.
Danny Vickers questioned how this would factor into the budget, whether for this year or for next year. Both LeJeune and Bahney answered his question with specifics. He then asked how the budget would be impacted.
According to Pat Lewis, Marlin ISD CFO, there is enough money in the district's accounts to cover this need right now.
“We have a very happy fund balance,” she told board members.
Because the hotspots will be paid for over a period of time, they will be factored into the 2020-2021 budget when the time comes.
“I want y’all to find a way to make this work,” Danny Vickers said. “I would really like to see if having the technology access at home enhances the educational performance for the K-3. I can't imagine that it wouldn’t be helpful to the others either.”
The initial maximum, suggested by Vickers, was $200,000, but he upped it after analyzing the numbers a little further.
“I think that’s gonna get you everything you’re asking for,” Vickers told the educator.
He made the motion to approve up to $250,000 to be used first for purchasing the hotspots and the rest to be used as needed for purchasing new Chromebooks in order to provide the community with access to instruction, education, and connectivity during the COVID-19 crisis. Byrleen Terry seconded the motion and it passed 3-0.
The process for checking out equipment has begun. Head to the Marlin ISD website to fill out the Chromebook Checkout Form. If you do not have a valid email address, please contact campus staff during nutrition pick-up. As of March 25, children are no longer required to be with parents for nutrition pick up, per the Texas Department of Agriculture.