NEWS

Greencastle-Antrim School District can get half back on cable upgrades

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

The school board authorized Greencastle-Antrim School District personnel to fill out the paperwork for e-Rate contracts, but no purchase will be made until approved at a later date. This action opened the door for technology infrastructure to be included in the 2016-2017 budget.

Technology director Dwight Bard spoke to Jim Winslow, Tracy Baer, Linda Farley, Mike Still, Brian Hissong, Shannon Yates, Eric Holtzman, Lura Hanks and Paul Politis on March 17.

The e-Rate federal program was a way to get high-speed internet into schools, with a refund for expenses based on various factors. G-ASD qualified for 50 percent. The Federal Universal Service Fund on everyone’s telephone bills supported the program.

“It’s complicated,” Bard said. “Greencastle’s fair share is $90,000.”

He explained that the internet cables in the school system were 20 years old, and needed to be replaced. The buildings needed new wireless access points and other upgrades to handle the capacity requirements of current and future technology equipment.

Chief educational officer Bob Crider confirmed the validity of the request. “Tech demands are increasing. This will prepare us for whatever we are facing.”

Delaying One-on-One

Crider shared that the plan to provide high school students with personal mobile learning devices would not be in full force for 2016-2017, as originally hoped. The preliminary findings of the task force brought up more questions to be answered, and the cost of the devices was also part of the consideration. One-on-One would continue to be a focus of the district as administrators, faculty, students and parents determined the best way to successfully implement it, he said.

"It's the middle of March, and there is a lot to be done yet," he said. "We're scaling back the scope for next year. There are so many things to think about."

By pacing themselves, Crider added, the success of One-to-One upon implementation would increase.

A task force, two pilot classrooms, teacher training, and understanding more about capabilities of various devices revealed more time was necessary to do the project right. It fell under the umbrella of Equal Tech Opportunities (ETO), designed to provide 21st century skills for students.

Still asked about the end game, how success of objectives could be measured.

Crider responded that a survey of before and after technology skills was one way, on abilities needed by college-bound students as well as those heading into the workforce. Hissong agreed.

"This is the world we live in. Everyone will be on technology in one way or another."

The board will vote on the ETO debut project later this spring.

State budget

Business manager Jolinda Wilson commented on the not-yet-signed Pennsylvania state budget and its impact on G-ASD.

When Gov. Wolf line-item vetoed the bill in December, it did free up $5 million for the district in January. The state still owed Greencastle $4 million, which she was confident would eventually arrive. Until then, things were doable.

“We have enough cash to complete the year,” she said. “We can meet payroll and debt service. We do not need a line of credit. That’s very encouraging.”