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Ashwaubenon 2021-22 school technology budget approved

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – The school board voted Wednesday, Feb. 10, to approve the district’s 2021-22 technology budget of $662,000 as presented by Instructional Technology Coordinator Jamie Averbeck and Information Technology Coordinator Scott Truskowski.

The budget includes $20,000 for infrastructure, $37,000 for internet, $373,000 for hardware and $232,000 for services/support.

Truskowski said the $20,000 for infrastructure will involve switch replacement at Parkview Middle School, Pioneer Elementary School and Valley View Elementary School.

He said the amount is relatively low because the district receives federal E-rate funding.

“That (E-rate) funding was on a five-year cycle, and they just renewed it for the second five-year cycle,” he said. “We’ll be getting funding again going forward, and typically we get about a 50 to 60 percent discount with that funding, so I’ve taken that into account on the infrastructure cost.”

Truskowski said internet expenses will be for the district’s firewall and hot spots for students.

He said hardware will include Chromebook and computer equipment purchases, while services/support will involve licensing, warranties, maintenance and operating expenses.

Truskowski said 500 Chromebooks will be purchased for sixth- and seventh-graders at Parkview Middle School, with 275 Chromebooks being purchased for grades 3-5 at Parkview and Valley View elementary schools and 30 spare Chromebooks also being purchased.

“Maintenance iPads need to be replaced, as well as iPads for the libraries at Pioneer and Valley View,” he said. “And then one of the bigger purchases we’re looking at is replacing the smartboards in kindergarten through second grade at Pioneer and Valley View with some sort of interactive TVs.”

Truskowski said five projectors will also be replaced.

He said the overall technology budget “has taken a bit of a hit” over the past several years.

With the way the district is adding hardware with Chromebooks, mobile hot spots and services, Truskowski said more money is being requested in the technology budget to maintain those services.

The extended technology budget plan he and Averbeck presented to the board calls for $719,000 for 2022-23, $728,000 for 2023-24, $564,000 for 2023-24 and $648,000 for 2025-26.

Averbeck said the district has one device for every student in grades 3-12, while there are about two students for every iPad in grades K-2.

“We are 1-to-1 in grades 3 and up,” he said.

Averbeck said the skills expected of K-2 students don’t require every student to have a device all the time.

“Funding that all the time, when we want it for the instance of remote learning in a pandemic, I’m not sure if that’s worth the squeeze,” he said. “Instead, we would rather have interactive boards in the classroom, collaborative space in the classroom, really focusing on that in the classroom.”

Averbeck said the district made use of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to provide every student in grades 3-12 with a device.

He said next year’s technology budget will be replacing Chromebooks to maintain the 1-to-1 ratio in grades 3-12.

In the event Ashwaubenon would have to return to remote learning districtwide because of an increase in COVID-19 cases, Averbeck said every student in grades 3-12 would have a device at home.

“Right now, we still have had our families in need, 4K through second grade, keep their devices that we provided, just in case there would be a quarantine or something would happen that they would have a device,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to worry about small kids bringing computers in and out of school.”

Averbeck said an iPad or touchscreen Chromebook would be the preferred device for students in the lower grades, but it would be more expensive to buy those types of devices.

“Our tech budget is pretty lean, but we also leverage it as much as possible,” he said.

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