Next year, the Sag Harbor School District is hoping to give all students in the fifth and sixth grades a laptop that would stay “in school” and the technology department has a long-term plan on how to get computers on the laps of all Sag Harbor students from fifth through twelfth grade by 2013.
At Monday’s school board meeting, Vincent Raicovi, technology coordinator for the Sag Harbor school district, explained how such a plan may be feasible through a lease program similar to one established in the Westhampton school district.
For the next four years, the plan would cost the district $894,000 which includes teacher laptops and smart boards for grades five to 12.
The lease program, which includes 160 laptops for students in fifth and sixth grades, will cost the district $87,000 in 2009-2010. The following year, 320 laptops will be leased at a cost of $174,000. In 2011-2012, there would be 480 laptops leased for $261,000, in 2012-2013 the cost would be $372,000 for a total of $894,000 for four years. This would give the district 720 laptops that would fulfill the need for the students in grades five to 12 in its final year.
Raicovi said he believes that leasing computers is a better idea than purchasing them for several reasons.
“If we implement this plan to lease things instead of buying, then we aren’t stuck with older equipment,” he said. He also added that warranty, breakage and theft could be covered with the leasing models.
“In Westhampton, the usage is through the roof,” he said, “and there were noticeable improvements with test scores.”
“When kids walk out of here they will be immersed with technology,” superintendent Dr. John Gratto said.
PTA president Chris Tice asked about the philosophy of starting with the fifth and sixth graders first rather than working from the twelfth grade down. Raicovi replied that there were a lot of questions about that and said that a main concern is that these laptops not be taken home.
Rick Kraebel, a technology specialist for the district, said the fifth and sixth graders are also centrally located which would be physically better for keeping track of the computers.
Budget advisory committee member Sandy Kruel asked what would happen to the current computer labs and if those classrooms could then be opened up. Raicovi said he didn’t see that happening immediately, but perhaps in the second year of the project some of the lab computers may be available for other uses. Raicovi also said those labs may be needed for computers with advanced software.
When asked if the board was in agreement with the proposal, after heads nodded in agreement, board of education president Walter Wilcoxen said, “Go for it.”
Raicovi said he is going to work on some more figures for leasing versus purchasing and will get back to the board with that information.
On Monday night, prior to a board of education meeting, the technology department gave their budget presentation to discuss cost savings that have been put together by the personnel in that department.
During the budget presentation Raicovi, explained that there will only be a two percent increase in the technology budget over last year’s budget even including the proposed lap top initiative. Some of those savings have come from leasing additional technology equipment instead of purchasing.
Raicovi also informed the room that the new phone system, which will be supplied by Optimum Lighpath, has saved the district $40,000. The phone system change will improve the current system and improve the data connections for Internet use at both the elementary school and the middle/high school. Raicovi announced the switch over to the new company will take place on Monday, February 2.
The only concern of the presentation was that $16,800 was budgeted for 12 cell phones in that department. Kruel brought the issue to the attention of Raicovi who said he is going to do some investigating.
“That is the next thing to attack,” Raicovi said.
“You guys shouldn’t be texting,” Kruel replied.
Raicovi explained that the cell phones are budgeted with Nextel and he said he will look into the current plans.
On Wednesday, Gratto said it is likely that the amount will be amended before the final budget presentation.
“It was a good catch,” Gratto said, “I wondered the same thing, seems like an awful lot of money.”