(Daily Inter Lake, The (Kalispell, MT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 17--Despite voter rejection of a high school technology tax levy in May, Kalispell Public Schools have been hard at work outlining and carrying out a technology plan under budget constraints.
Part of that plan included replacing computers that operate Microsoft XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft.
Information Technology Director Rich Lawrence said 478 computers were identified for replacement in the high school district, which includes Glacier and Flathead high schools and Linderman Education Center.
They are doing so with refurbished computers for $210,000 using general fund money held in a technology cash reserve. A successful technology levy would have provided $600,000 annually over 10 years.
"We're trying to stretch our dollars as far as we can," Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau said.
Over the summer, 221 computers were replaced with refurbished units for about half the cost of purchasing new ones. Lawrence said the refurbished computers could last four to five years, as opposed to new ones, which can last six to eight years depending on use.
"We're meeting the basic need, but there is infrastructure as well as classroom support that could have occurred that's not -- but that's just the reality," Flatau said.
On the elementary side, the district was successful in passing a technology levy that will provide $600,000 annually over 10 years. Flatau has devised a way to allocate the funding between the five elementary schools and middle school.
In the first year of the levy, approximately $400,000 will be used toward upgrading infrastructure (including bandwidth, routers, servers and connectivity) and pay the salaries of information technology support personnel.
Additionally, schools will receive a set amount each year proportional to the number of students enrolled in a school.
"That's going to provide principals and staff a regular, consistent funding source for technology in their building they can use on a yearly basis," Lawrence said.
Approximately $30,000 will be used each year to replace a lab based on a five-year rotation that is yet to be determined. The remaining money, approximately $45,000, will be designated for the highest needs across the elementary district according to Flatau.
"Rich and I and the building principals will identify what those needs are based on priority," Flatau said.
Including the levy, the elementary district has budgeted a total of $965,032 for technology. Of that amount, $56,906 is general funds with the remaining from state funds.
Lawrence said technology plans are being revamped at each school.
"In the fall we'll put together cohesive plans looking five years out," Lawrence said. "It will give us a good road map to the future.
"We do know now going forward that we'll have adequate funding for K through eighth for the next ten years and we're very thankful to the community. Yes, we're breathing a sigh of relief. The high school is still a big question."
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at email@example.com.
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