Bethel Park will spend more than $900,000 on new computers and other equipment that will maintain the district’s “One-to-One Technology Initiative.”
Bethel Park School Board approved the purchases at its May 28 meeting.
The board launched its One-to-One Technology Initiative about five years ago, setting aside $1.3 million to outfit nearly every student with a Chromebook. However, those first computers the district purchased in 2014 and 2015 are becoming obsolete, so the district will buy 2,242 Dell Chromebooks to replace them. Students in grades two through six will use the new computers next school year.
Each Chromebook costs about $325, so the total cost will be $727,753.
Technology Director Ron Reyer said he anticipated the Chromebooks would last about four years. The original replacement schedule called for replacing those computers last year, but district officials decided to extend the computers’ life cycle by a year or so. But now, Reyer said the Chromebooks have become so old the district may start to see problems with software support and increasing maintenance costs.
For kindergarten and first grade, the district will replace Chromebooks with Apple iPads. Reyer said feedback from kindergarten and first-grade teachers indicated that iPads were more appropriate for younger children, since most 5- and 6-year-olds have difficulty typing on a keyboard. The iPads will have keyboard cases, so teachers can introduce the skill to their students.
The district will purchase 355 iPads at $350 each or $124,250.
Bethel Park will also purchase new carts, which are used to store and charge the Chromebooks, and 20 projectors to replace old units. The district will upgrade the server rooms at the elementary and middle schools.
Reyer said a similar purchase will probably be needed next year to replace aging Chromebooks in the middle and high schools.
In another matter, the board unanimously rejected the findings in a fact-finder’s report concerning contract negotiations with the union representing the district’s paraprofessionals and teacher’s aides. The district and the union have been negotiating a new contract for several years. The last pact expired in 2016.
Both parties agreed to meet with a fact-finder through the state Labor Relations Board. The fact-finder issued a nonbinding report May 24. The report will be published on the Labor Relations Board’s and district’s websites in the next several weeks, after the union votes on whether to accept or reject the report.
The board granted raises to 17 administrators covered by the state’s Act 93 and 10 employees not covered by the act. Act 93 covers building principals, assistant principals, technology director, education directors and curriculum coordinators. Each Act 93 employee will receive a $2,300 raise.
Administrators not covered by Act 93 will receive raises between $1,800 and $3,000.
The board granted permission to the Municipality of Bethel Park to access the area around the high school athletic fields known as Peter Page Park so flood controls can be installed.
The municipality wants to install a drain pipe as well as water retention basins that will hopefully help mitigate flooding downstream on Logan and adjacent roads. Peter Page Park is located partially on land owned by the school district.
The municipality plans to build berms along the existing stream that will allow water to temporarily pool during periods of heavy rain. It should slow the flow of water downstream and reduce flooding, said John Quinlisk, the municipality’s environmental engineer. During heavy rains, the retention ponds will be filled with less than 3-feet of water and on dry days, the stream should flow as it does currently.
The board also created the position of auditorium coordinator, who will manage the renting of the facility as well as student use of the high school auditorium. Jessica Kovell was hired to the new position at a salary of $55,000.