Third graders with laptops and middle schoolers swapping blackboards for Smartboards may have once seemed like a futuristic fantasy, but now it’s a reality at SMMUSD schools. Since 2014, the district has allocated $34,431,359 in funding for classroom technology implementation and expansion through Bond Measure ES, 80% of which has already been spent.
What to do with the nearly $7 million remaining was discussed at last week’s school board meeting. Members approved a plan proposed by district staff to revamp the budget to invest more money in network infrastructure, student devices and the creation of updated “21st century classrooms” , and less in library technology, computer labs, technical direction and managerial positions.
Director of Education Technology Services, Bertha Roman, explained that projected costs in these latter categories have turned out to be lower than projected when the budget was first drafted nearly 10 years ago.
“There’s a decrease in funding needed for this because in the original allocation we actually had computer carts, or Chromebook carts, for each library, so with the implementation of individual devices, that was no longer needed,” she said.
SMMUSD now assigns students in grades 3-8 and 11 individual Chromebooks to use throughout the year. Roman also added that fewer education technology teachers were hired than originally planned, leaving a surplus in that category as well.
SMMUSD network engineer John Castillo told the board that upgrading the district’s wireless network infrastructure would be a worthy use of that money for things like Chromebooks, laptops, and teachers’ phones.
“We’ve become so addicted to it,” he said.
Castillo said that will only increase as more wireless hotspots are added throughout the district. The plan proposed at the meeting would update wireless infrastructure and expand Internet access.
Board chair Maria Leon-Vasquez expressed support for the plan.
“To be able to have internet across campus – so high school students can get out and do their work…so they don’t have to be confined to a building, but can get out and do their research all around campus – that would be great,” she said.
The revised budget allocates a remaining $2,679,645 to infrastructure, $1,325,000 to student devices, $1,470,000 to support “21st century classrooms,” and a reduction of $953,370 to student technology. libraries, $500,000 for computer labs and no additional money for leadership and coaching.
Roman said it’s important to remember that investing in technology in schools is not a one-time payment and will require ongoing funding to be successful.
“We are committed to using the technology, but we will also have to commit to funding the refresh and maintenance of the technology that we implement,” she said.