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Board of Education hears recommendation for device purchase

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Mar 12, 2021

CHARLES TOWN — The Jefferson County Board of Education heard an extensive presentation recommending the purchase of Touch Chromebooks for kindergarten through second grade students at their regular meeting Monday night.

A committee had been tasked to determine what would be the most appropriate devices for the school system’s youngest learners. Headed by Jennifer Rowan, the committee included teachers, administrators and parents, who researched and evaluated several devices before coming to the board with their recommendation.

“Our cross section of stakeholders allowed us to have a robust discussion,” Rowan told board members.

A major area the committee focused on was screen time, which centered on three elements. “Consumption” was explained as time on games, Netflix and similar platforms. “Creation” involved such activities as digital art and podcasts. “Collaboration” centered on video conferencing and other individually interactive activities.

Committee member and parent Tonya Hamer said she has watched her three children, all in elementary school, learn with their teachers throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, in spite of the challenges in their virtual learning atmosphere.

“In the end, it is the people behind the device,” Rowan said, regarding the success of virtual teaching. “The device is just a tool.”

With that said, the committee said they recommended Touchscreen Chromebooks for several reasons.

“It is easily managed, easily fixed when damaged and offers an option for a mouse or not,” said committee member Nicole Johnson.

In addition, the touch screen device has a keyboard. Cost for the device is $396, which includes Chrome licensing, an eight-year licensing agreement, four-year recycle and four-year care support.

In contrast, the iPad was quoted at $375.95 without a keyboard and $507.55 with a keyboard. It came with a protective screen and Apple Care for only two years.

The Chrome Tablet, also evaluated by the committee, cost $329, but did not come with a keyboard. The licensing and support terms were similar to the Chrome Touchscreen.

“We recommend the Chrome Touchscreen,” Rowan said, indicating the next step would be to order the devices. “But we probably wouldn’t get them before December. That’s how backed up these companies are.”

The board took no action on whether to purchase the recommended devices.

In other business, Superintendent Bondy Gibson informed the board the school system had been notified they received just over $1 million in CARES funding to assist with summer school programs.

“The grant allows for the funding to cover a full-day, four-day-per-week program,” Gibson said. “It also allows funding to be carried over into the next year, to continue to try to bridge the gap for those who struggled with virtual learning.”

After a short time in executive session, the board also voted to file a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against Jefferson Utilities. No further information was given on the issue, which was not on the agenda posted prior to the meeting. Jefferson County Board of Education President Kathy Skinner said after the meeting that her agenda included an item under executive session labeled “legal and property”; however, that version of the agenda was not posted for the public.