Schools to get millions for technology

Published 2:27pm Saturday, March 16, 2013

In a single action meeting Thursday, the Escambia County School Board effectively put themselves in line to receive more than $1.7 million in funding to aid with upgrades and improvements to the local area network within the school system.

With each of the schools in the system in line for upgrades, board members approved moving forward with the awarding of an ERATE Priority II: LAN Upgrade bid to Information Transportation Solutions in the amount of $1,792.500. Members also approved the ward of $7,500 to School-In Sites for maintaining the system’s Web page and the Web pages of individual schools in the system.

Superintendent Randall Little said the need to move quickly on the approval of the bid awards was due to a looming deadline and the future of the funding.

“The ERATE Priority II funding is in jeopardy,” Little said. “If we’re going to move on this we need to move this year.”

Jamie Burkett, systems information specialist for the Escambia County School system, said the bids have a three-year life.

“As soon as we receive notification of the funding commitment we can move forward,” Burkett told board members. “The bid is good for three years.”

Burkett also outlined the funding plans for board members showing the funding return on a local investment.

The board will only be required to put up $385,134 in funds to acquire an additional $1.472,207 in funding under the ERATE plan, Burkett said.

“We need to improve our infrastructure to position ourselves to take advantage of rapidly approaching educational trends,” Little told the board. “Right now, our schools cannot handle a one-to-one situation when it comes to technology. We need to upgrade the infrastructure to carry the load.”

Little said the trend in education is moving toward having individual laptops, e-readers, tablets, etc., available for every student in the classroom. Under current constraints, the local area networks in place at the schools across the county, the load to allow network access for each child is limited.

“We could delay on this, but we need to move while this money is available,” Little said. “We need to move forward in being ready to provide one-to-one capabilities for our students. We also have 300 certified teachers in this county with only 160 or 170 Smart Boards available. I won’t be happy until every teacher has one in their classroom and has the knowledge on how to use them.”

Burkett told board members the work to upgrade the entire school system networks could begin as early as July 1.

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