Salem School Board allocates $200,000 for technology upgrade

Photo by Stephan-Hempelmann via stock.xchng

The Salem School Board voted unanimously to spend up to $200,000 for a technology upgrade at the school that will include building-wide wireless internet access and new hardware for students.

The board charged its Technology Committee with coming back with a specific proposal for what type and how many computing devices for students should be purchased.

The money will come out of the school’s reserve fund. However, administrators noted that the district had anticipated in the current budget spending $238,000 from reserves that ultimately were not needed due to lower than anticipated expenditures.

Board member Jack Niccolai made the motion and set the figure. He based it on the cost of the wireless access equipment and about 90 portable computers and several Smart Tables for primary grades.

Several approaches to the future of technology at the school were discussed by the board.

Board member Shane Gerber advocated for implementing a one computer per pupil approach, saying it could be done for the three highest, or two highest or even one entire grade level.

“You are preparing these kids for going into high school,” Said Gerber, noting that freshman students at Central High School next year will be required to have a laptop for school this coming school year. “Yes it’s going to cost a lot, but technology is now.”

Niccolai advocated for an approach of spreading out the impact of the new computers by putting several in each classroom instead of completely equipping a grade or grades.

A recent exercise in which teachers were asked about options showed the most support for putting a few more computers in each classroom. Currently each classroom typically has one computer, which is mostly used by the teacher and for running the Smart board, said Dan Zacharias, the school’s Computer Science Teacher / Technology Coordinator.

The one computer per one student option was most popular among middle school teachers.

Plans call for the school’s four computer labs to also continue to be used, at least in the short run.

The board may schedule a special meeting yet this month to firm up the details of what will be purchased.

Niccolai, who will be assuming the board presidency as of the next meeting, praised the step.

The $200,000 “is a big number but we talked about being courageous,” Niccolai said. “I think it makes us a lot more attractive. It’s good PR. It will bring people in.”


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