Pearl River County School district to move forward with grant for 4,000 Chromebooks
The Pearl River County school board of trustees held an special called meeting on Thursday afternoon to address two items.
The first was to approve an administrative day of pay for full time employees of the district for Monday, August 24, when the district was out of class for Hurricane Marco that at the time was a threat to the area.
The second item was to provide information to the board about a grant for funding through the Mississippi Department of Education CARES Act Equity in Distance Learning Act. This act has provided $150 million to school districts to pay for computer devices for students and teachers, software to deliver instruction, enhanced internet connectivity and professional development for digital teaching and learning.
Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said the grant does require some matching funds and those funds must be committed up front.
T.J. Burleson (pictured above), Director of Operations for the school district, said the grant application has a deadline of September 1, 2020. Burleson said the district is eligible for $1.1 million and the district needs to add another $573,000.00 for a total of $1.68 million. With that money, Burleson said the district will purchase 4,000 Chromebooks (specialized laptop) which will provide a Chromebook for every student in the district and allow for three Chromebooks to be placed in every classroom in case a student does not bring their issued Chromebook device to school that particular day.
Burleson said the Chromebook comes with a protective cover, three years of insurance coverage for accidental damage, and Cisco Umbrella software. Cisco Umbrella provides protection from phishing, content category filtering whether on or off the school network, and per-user visibility and policy enforcement per device. The Cisco Umbrella will replace software the district is currently using and thus a savings in this area according to Burleson.
Burleson noted that the district was in the last year of its existing Chromebook lease which is a cost of $231,000.00 per year. He said since the school will have to pay the $573,000.00 upfront as part of this grant, the district can continue to budget the old lease amount ($231K) and obligate that money which will basically be a surplus. The district would recoup over $600,000.00 over the three year period according to Burleson.
Lumpkin restated to the board that this grant is a purchase, not a lease, and the school will own the Chromebooks after the three year period. Burleson added that the school is obligated to keep the 4,000 a minimum of three years, and he pointed out that the current lease is in its fourth year, so he is confident the school can get at least four years of good use of the new Chromebooks.
Lumpkin reminded the board, that at this time, there is no action required from the board as the district applies for the grant. However, if the district is awarded funding from the grant in the future, the district will have to use reserve funds to make the purchase upfront.