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Local

Sycamore District 427 school board 'skeptical' about tech budget proposal

Roxanne Horton, director of technology for Sycamore School District 427, gives a technology budget presentation during the Board of Education meeting Tuesday at South Prairie Elementary School in Sycamore.
Roxanne Horton, director of technology for Sycamore School District 427, gives a technology budget presentation during the Board of Education meeting Tuesday at South Prairie Elementary School in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – Will Sycamore schools be next in implementing 1:1 student-to-electronic device ratio? That remains to be seen after the Sycamore School District 427 Board meeting Tuesday night.

District officials gave a technology budget proposal overview during the first of several budget talks that started on Tuesday at South Prairie Elementary School. Roxanne Horton, director of technology for District 427, said the big-ticket items on the technology budget request included a $144,856 increase in district technology instructional materials and an additional $635,076 that would go toward new Chromebooks for students in grades six through 12.

Ed Hollendoner, information technology manager for the district, said the request also includes $37,620 for additional school network filters for those Chromebooks that would alert administration to anything that would warrant suicide prevention measures and porn, hate speech and violence on social media, for example. He said the cost of the three-year license also would allow parents and guardians to check activity logs on the student’s Chromebook remotely.

“It gives parents a little more confidence in that strange device being home,” Hollendoner said.

Horton had said at the Jan. 8 District 427 Board meeting that the district is not quite at a 1:1 student-to-electronic device ratio currently, but officials have started to consider options on how to get closer to that ahead of budget talks starting this month. She had said the current districtwide student-to-device ratio is about 2.8:1, with the ratio of about 4:1 at the high school level.

Kris Webster, director of curriculum for District 427, also gave a presentation on the district’s learning and teaching budget Tuesday. She said there is an overall decrease in the district’s learning and teaching budget for fiscal 2020.

“But I made up for it in [Horton]’s because the cost just shifted,” Webster said.

School board member Kris Wrenn said the cost of the proposed 1:1 program concerns her because the school board has worked really hard to get to a balanced budget over the past eight years she’s been serving on the board. She said the technology proposal has been a long time coming in this day and age, but she also is concerned about some students potentially not being able to afford the devices or have access to web-based technology at home.

“I think it’s exciting,” Wrenn said. “We’re just cautious with the money that’s being spent and also with some valid concerns about how long those units would actually last.”

The superintendent’s report for Tuesday’s meeting also was supposed to included a presentation from members of the district’s sustainability committee that outlined how schools in the district are trying to reduce their environmental footprint. Superintendent Kathy Countryman said that will be delayed to another meeting because of the weather conditions Tuesday night.

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