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IW School Board OKs $1.3M for laptops

SMITHFIELD

Isle of Wight County’s School Board approved spending roughly $1.3 million for new laptops at its May meeting.

These include 1,000 Google Chromebooks for middle school students, 450 MacBook Air laptops for high school freshmen and another 470 MacBook Airs for teachers.

The cost of the Chromebooks — which totals $309,630 including the associated Google Chrome OS management licenses — is expected to come out of the current school year’s budget, despite not having been budgeted at the beginning of the year. Some funding, however, may come from money the school division received from Congress’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“The current school closure has shown us that we need different technology for our middle schoolers,” said Lynn Briggs, the division’s spokeswoman.

The freshman laptops, which cost $396,900 in total, are included in the division’s 2020-2021 budget, and will be paid for via a mix of state grants and local funding. The teacher laptops are budgeted at up to $611,000, though the actual cost is anticipated to be lower, according to Eric Cooprider, the division’s director of information technology and network services. This cost will be spread out through 2024 as the teacher laptops will be leased rather than purchased. When the lease is up, the division will be able to purchase the laptops for $1.

“The teacher laptops have always been on a 4- to 5-year life cycle,” Briggs said.

This, she explained, ensures the division keeps its teachers updated and at the same time allows for existing teacher laptops to be repurposed for student use for several more years. The laptops currently in use by high school seniors will also be returned to the division at the end of the school year and refurbished for mobile carts and computer labs throughout the division, mostly at elementary schools.

“Student laptops are used until we no longer can,” Briggs said. “Usually we try to keep them on an 8- to 10-year life cycle.”

In addition to these purchases, the School Board also voted 4-1 to approve Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton’s proposed COVID-19-related budget cuts for the 2020-2021 school year, which included implementing a pay freeze for all Isle of Wight County Schools employees, not hiring 13 positions and reducing the division’s contribution to employee health savings accounts by half, with the remaining half frozen until the division learns more about the fall economy. The dissenting vote had come from Newport District representative Vicky Hulick, who had objected to cutting HSA contributions during a pandemic.