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Unit 40 Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox, right, discusses connectivity options during the district’s technology committee meeting while school board and committee member Brad Waldhoff, left, and junior high assistant principal Kelsey Baker, center, listen.

The Effingham Unit 40 Technology Committee on Thursday discussed purchasing additional laptops and other devices for possible remote learning.

The purchase could also move the district closer to one-to-one student device use. District Superintendent Mark Doan presented three purchase options to the committee, with the committee favoring the first option presented.

Doan said that option would call for the purchase of 420 laptops, 160 tablets and covers for around $200,000. He said those devices would be used across the district with a certain number going to each building to cover 50 percent of students.

Doan said that at the last committee meeting, the committee agreed to move toward covering half of each school building’s students should they be forced into remote learning.

The 420 laptops and 160 tablets would cover well over 50 percent of students at each building, Doan said. Tablets would only be used at the Early Learning Center, however.

Committee and school board member Robin Klosterman expressed concerns over whether or not the additional devices would be used more than just remote learning, saying they should be used in other ways if full remote learning does not occur or schools can go back to typical teaching models.

“The other thing that bothers me a little bit is the idea we might purchase devices that we would only use for remote learning and we would cut them out otherwise. Hopefully, that’s a temporary situation, so I would want whatever we have, obviously, to be something we could be using every day in a classroom,” Klosterman said. “I know it might cost a little bit more, but to me, I just can’t imagine we would buy something that would only be appropriate for one person in remote learning.”

Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox said the district has asked teachers to move their classroom curriculum to the Google Classroom program should the district be forced into full remote learning again. He said because teachers have become familiar with teaching through such a program, the district is already that much closer to one-to-one device usage.

District Network Specialist Kirk Hammer said a tech company could come in and do a professional wireless site survey to determine if the district’s network could handle one-to-one device usage.

The committee requested additional information on the survey as well as what additional staff could be needed to help the IT department support more devices.

Meanwhile, the committee heard an update from Fox on possible internet connectivity purchases.

Fox said AT&T recently contacted him regarding mobile hotspots. Verizon has also been in contact with the district to discuss providing Jetpack mobile internet hotspots for at-home use for remote learning.

Fox said he would reach back out to AT&T to learn more about what they could offer the district.

The committee agreed to wait until it was closer to the school year to purchase any hotspots from any vendor so it could assess exactly how many are needed. Doan noted that as of Thursday, five to seven families are in need of connectivity access.

In other matters, the committee:

• Heard from district Technology Integrationist Julie Flack that she will restart an interactive whiteboard pilot, allowing teachers to test out SmartBoard and BenQ Interactive Boards.

• Heard from Curriculum Director Chelle Beck that school staffs are undergoing training for Google Classroom, Google Meet, Zoom, YouTube, screen casting and more.

• Heard from the district IT department that Windows, email migration and summer computer work and maintenance is moving along close to its originally planned schedule.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

Reporter

Kaitlin Cordes covers Effingham County, police and courts and sports features for the Effingham Daily News. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University. Cordes is a native of Effingham.

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