Bethel Park School District is projected to spend roughly $3.1 million over the next five years to keep its technology up-to-date.
The school board asked Ron Reyer, the director of technology, to provide a long-range forecast of expenditures to replace students’ computer Chromebooks and upgrade other technology equipment through the 2021-22 school year. He presented his estimate, as well as a timeline for replacing technology equipment, at the board’s Feb. 20 committee meeting.
About four years ago, the board set aside about $1.3 million for its One-to-One Technology Initiative, which provided low-cost laptops, known as Chromebooks, for nearly every student. However, those computers will soon need to be replaced.
These Chromebooks “certainly seem to increase the engagement and the opportunities for the students,” Superintendent Joseph Pasquerilla said.
Most of the cost should be covered through the technology department’s annual budgets, but the school board may have to increase that budget a bit to ensure these upgrades are fully funded, Pasquerilla said.
The Chromebooks will be replaced gradually, starting next year with grades 4 through 6. Teacher Chromebooks in grades kindergarten to fourth grade should be replaced in 2019-20. Eighth-graders and high school students will get new Chromebooks in 2020-21 and seventh-graders will get new computers in 2021-22.
The Chromebooks cost about $325 each, so Reyer estimates it will cost $1.66 million to replace them over the next five years. Plans also call for upgrades to the district’s network and infrastructure used to access the internet, as well as replacing higher-end Macintosh computers that are needed for digital art, music and video editing classes. Reyer estimates the cost of those upgrades will be about $1.45 million over the next five years.
In another matter, the board asked administrators to change the policy on bathroom breaks at the high school.
Administrators implemented stricter rules on bathroom use in October, after a student scrawled a threat against the school on a bathroom wall. The incident led to school cancelations and a police investigation. Since then, students have not been allowed to use the restroom between classes.
Instead, they have to sign out during classes. Pasquerilla said the rule deters students from writing threats on the bathroom stalls because staff can monitor who goes in and out of the restrooms.
Several board members said bathroom breaks during classes can be disruptive and urged administrators to allow students to use the facilities between classes.