PAXTON — When the 2020-21 school year begins, it is expected that every student in second through 12th grades in the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district will have a Chromebook to use in the classroom — and those at PBL High School will even be able to take theirs home.
The school board received an update during Wednesday’s meeting from Technology Coordinator Dustin Franckey and consultant Mike Brehm on the progress of the district’s Chromebook 1:1 initiative, the goal of which is to have one such device for every student.
Brehm said that goal should be reached by the 2020-21 school year.
To do so, the district will be retiring 700 older Chromebooks that are reaching the end of their useful life, including 253 this school year, 283 next school year and 164 the following school year, Brehm said. They will no longer be receiving “automatic updates” to their software in the next few years, Brehm said, so they will need to be disposed of by either recycling or selling them.
The district will be buying new Chromebooks to replace the older ones, as well as give the district enough devices to become “fully 1:1,” Brehm said.
“We’re looking to gear up and purchase the number of machines that we need over the course of the next three years to get us to that point,” Brehm said. “We’ll need to buy about 450 devices each of the next two years and 120 the year after that. That will give us well over 1,000 new devices.”
The new Chromebooks would have automatic software updates through 2025, when a new set of devices would need to be purchased to replace them, Brehm said.
One school-issued Chromebook would be assigned to each student in grades two through 12, Brehm said, with high school students being able to take theirs home with them and the students in lower grades able to use them in class.
Brehm suggested the possibility of requiring a fee to be paid by high school students who are assigned Chromebooks they wish to take home, noting that most school districts in the area require such a fee. Brehm said the fee would not only help offset the cost of buying the devices but also would “promote some type of ownership (of the devices) with the students and families themselves.”
Another possibility suggested by Brehm is to offer high school students “optional insurance” they can buy to insure their devices. Brehm said many school districts offer such insurance, and most students buy it because it is much cheaper than paying for a replacement device.
Both of those possibilities will be further explored, Brehm said.
Franckey said he and Brehm, the former technology coordinator at PBL, plan to recommend the district buy a certain model of Chromebook — the ASUS 204EE — due to its “durability, repairability and life cycle, which is four to five years.” Another positive aspect of that model is that it comes with a “self-maintaner” program that can be used to train district staff or even a student worker to perform repairs under warranty in-house, at no additional cost to the district.
A committee comprised of staff members from each of the district’s four schools, plus parents, social workers and others active in the community, has been formed to explore options for the 1:1 initiative, Franckey said. Its next meeting is April 30, when the group plans to review the results of survey questions posed to students and staff.
The survey, Brehm said, showed that more than 80 percent of faculty and staff favored going 1:1, while, to Brehm’s surprise, more than 60 percent of high school students favored the payment of a fee for each device they take home. The survey also showed that more than 90 percent of high school students have Internet access at home.
For high schoolers without Internet access at home, the district is exploring the possibility of providing each of them with a Kajeet SmartSpot, a filtered Wi-Fi hotspot, “so they have Internet at their house that would work with their device,” Brehm said.
Brehm noted that Internet access is also available at the public libraries in Loda and Paxton. It is possible that some of the school district’s older Chromebooks, when retired, could be donated to each library so that students without Internet access at home could use those devices outside of the classroom.
School district staff is expected to undergo professional development in the next couple of years in preparation for the 1:1 initiative becoming reality, Franckey said. Such professional development, Franckey said, will be designed to get staff “more comfortable with integrating more technology in the classroom.”
Surveys on the 1:1 initiative will be sent to families in the school district at some point, too, Brehm noted.
Also at last Wednesday’s school board meeting:
➜ The board learned of a request by a parent for the district to consider allowing fifth-graders to participate in PBL Junior High School’s cross-country and track-and-field programs. The request will be discussed at a future board meeting.
➜ The board took its first look at various policies recommended for approval by the district’s policy review committee and made plans to vote on approving them in May.
➜ The board heard a report from Superintendent Cliff McClure regarding a recent meeting of the board’s building and grounds committee. The main news that came out of the meeting was that the committee had tentatively scheduled an auction for July 13 at the to-be-demolished PBL Eastlawn School building.
➜ The board voted 7-0 to approve a list of maintenance projects planned for this summer.
➜ The board voted 7-0 to approve the renewal of an intergovernmental agreement between the school district and Paxton Park District, allowing the park district to use school district facilities for its various programs in return for paying an annual fee. One change to the agreement is that the park district will only be using the gymnasium in the new addition at Clara Peterson Elementary School for its programs. Also, if additional snowplowing is required in the parking area of the school only so a park district activity can take place there, the park district would be billed for the work, or it would instead have the right to ask that the work not be done and cancel the activity, McClure said.
➜ The board reviewed proposed changes to the student, faculty, extra-curricular, junior high and high school athletic code of conduct, and acceptable-use policy handbooks for 2019-20.
➜ The board reviewed student fees proposed for 2019-20. McClure recommended that all fees remain unchanged except for breakfast and lunch prices.
➜ The board approved student insurance fees for 2019-20, showing no increase from last year.
➜ The board voted to authorize the purchase of a two-way radio repeater and reviewed a lease with Ludlow Cooperative for the purpose of installing the repeater on a leg of a cooperative-owned grain elevator.
➜ The board approved a contract with ESS Will Sub for the purpose of scheduling substitute teachers.
➜ The board approved placing a second amended budget for the 2019 fiscal year on public display and set a public hearing on the amended budget for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, in the board room at the unit office in Paxton. McClure said the budget was amended for a second time to reflect some Title I funds being moved around within the budget and the purchase of the two-way radio repeater in the transportation fund.
➜ The board voted to authorize McClure to submit the 2019-20 consolidated district plan to the Illinois State Board of Education. McClure said the plan is required in order to receive grants.
➜ The board voted to approve the renewal of an agreement with Bushue HR. Under the new three-year agreement, the district will pay $7,380 in Year 1, $7,440 in Year 2 and $7,500 in Year 3 in return for the company providing oversight of the district’s insurance.
➜ The board discussed the need to dispose of wrestling mats, now that PBL High School’s wrestling program has been terminated. McClure said the district will donate the mats back to the Meyer family, which had donated them. If the Meyer family does not want the wrestling mats, the district will sell the mats.
➜ The board voted to affirm the resignations of Jeff Graham (PBL High School student services director and head football coach), Natasha Jeakins (paraprofessional at PBL Eastlawn School), Kourtney Bradd (reading interventionist at Clara Peterson Elementary School and assistant volleyball coach at PBL High School), Jill Schrodt (PBL High School cheerleading coach), Stacy Morse (PBL High School cheerleading coach) and Donna Howe (instructional aide at Clara Peterson Elementary School). Howe’s resignation is effective at the end of the 2021-22 school year.
➜ The board approved Jill Schrodt, Stacy Morse and Tyrell Quinton serving as volunteer high school cheerleading coaches.
➜ The board approved the hiring of Rachel Tobeck as an English/language arts teacher at PBL Junior High School, Erin Graham as an elementary school social worker and Taylor Bauer as an assistant volleyball coach at PBL High School.
➜ The board approved the reassignments of Hannah McDermaid (sixth-grade math to seventh-grade English/language arts), Katie Kurtz (junior high English/language arts to sixth-grade math), Melinda Busby (junior high school dean of students to high school assistant principal) and Kerry Wise (Clara Peterson Elementary School lunch clerk to Clara Peterson Elementary School paraprofessional).
➜ Following a closed session, the board approved a 3 percent pay raise for the superintendent for each of the next four years.
➜ The board approved a number of donations to the district, including $2,500 from Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services, $125 from Busey Bank, $135 from Richard and Raquel Eshleman, $100 from Richard and Janice Maul and $100 from an anonymous donor toward PBL High School’s annual community service trip to the Mississippi Delta; a pair of $843 donations from the First United Methodist Church, with one going toward PBL’s Special Olympics program and the other going toward the PBL Panther Pals program; and a $3,500 donation from Clara Peterson Elementary School’s Parent Involvement Team toward picnic tables and benches.
➜ The board approved the renewal of membership for the 2019-20 school year in the Illinois Elementary School Association.
➜ McClure said that as of last week, 76 students had already registered for kindergarten for the 2019-20 school year.
➜ The district’s breakfast and lunch provider — Aramark Corp. — intends to make some changes to its menus starting in May using feedback it received from students surveyed at the high school and junior high school.
➜ Brian Mrozek of Gilbane Construction Co. gave the board an update on the progress of the construction of a two-story addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School. Mrozek said “construction is going well” and said the work is on target to be completed during the first week of August. Mrozek said the roof is completed and most exterior windows have been installed. On the building’s inside, ongoing and soon-to-be-completed work includes drywall finishing, painting, the installation of ceiling grids, the installation of the elevator, the installation of lights, basketball goals, volleyball posts, a batting cage and scoreboards in the gymnasium, and the installation of equipment in the kitchen.
➜ The board approved security, communication and technology hardware purchases for Clara Peterson Elementary School and its addition.
➜ The board made plans to hold its reorganizational meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 24. Two newly elected members will be taking their oaths of office during the meeting, and officers will be appointed for the next two years.