News Column

MCCSC board increases size of loan for tablets

August 14, 2014

By Mary Keck, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

Aug. 14--The MCCSC board will seek a loan that is more than twice what it originally planned from the State Board of Education to help cover the cost of electronic tablets.

At a special session on Tuesday night, Tim Thrasher, director of business operations, told the board the state board had more funds available than the $218,800 loan amount it originally requested. In a 7-0 vote, the board approved applying for a $462,000 loan with a 1 percent interest rate and will request to pay it off over five years. The corporation already has about $91.5 million in outstanding debt from loans for buildings and other projects.

The $462,000 loan is for tablets, such as iPads or Google Chromebooks, that will be made available to high school students to use in class and at home during the 2015-16 school year. Monroe County Community School Corp. will use the funds from the state board to support the one-to-one technology initiative to get an iPad or other device into the hands of every student in the district.

The total cost for every high school student to have a tablet is estimated at $2.4 million, and MCCSC will reach that total by using the loan in combination with money from the district's capital projects, textbook rental and technology funds, and from tax-exempt general obligation bonds.

"We've made a commitment in this district to do it; this follows that commitment," said Kelly Smith, school board member. "At 1 percent, we'd be crazy not do to this."

School board members stressed the need for students to have experience with technology when seeking careers after high school.

"I'm very happy to hear we are planning on looking forward to this and planning on this," said Lois Sabo-Skelton, school board member. She said technology is as important in studying the arts as it is in science.

School board members David Sabbagh and Sue Wanzer felt the effectiveness of the one-to-one initiative would need to be evaluated and the appropriate broadband infrastructure should also be in place to support additional tablets.

Sabbagh said that in government, programs are often started but evaluation can get left out, causing a proliferation of unevaluated programs.

"Hopefully, we can evaluate with all the data we collect," he said. If the program is not working, Sabbagh said it should be phased out.

Wanzer agreed. "We need an evaluative tool to determine if this really is benefiting our teaching and learning," she said.

Mike Watson, the director of eLearning strategies at MCCSC, said an evaluation tool was being developed.

Wanzer also asked about problems in the schools with connecting to the Internet and whether or not MCCSC was getting closer to addressing those issues.

"Let's make sure we're where we need to be infrastructure-wise because as we add devices, then obviously, that's a bigger slow down on your system," said Judy DeMuth, MCCSC superintendent. "That's something that Mike (Watson) has been challenged to do, to go take a look at infrastructure and make recommendations on why we have bottle necks."

Watson said he had already started the process.

Tablet costs

Break down of device expenditures for MCCSC high schools

Bloomington North

1,700 tablets for $665 each: $1,130,000

1,700 tablet covers for $25 each: $42,500

Bloomington South

1,800 tablets for $665 each: $1,197,000

1,800 tablet covers for $25 each: $45,000

Total cost: $2,415,500


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Source: Herald-Times (Bloomington, IN)

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