BELDING — In 2010, Belding Area Schools made a commitment to new and improved technologies with the approval of a $38.8 million bond that helped bring iPads and other electronic devices to the district.
But to continue with that commitment to provide up-to-date technology for students and staff, aging technology must eventually be replaced.
On Monday evening, members of the Belding Area Schools Board of Education voted unanimously, with Scott McNeal absent, to purchase nearly 100 computers and 80 monitors for computer labs throughout the district.
According to Superintendent Sara Shriver, the current computers in the Ellis Elementary School computer lab and both of the Woodview Elementary School’s labs are more than five years old and “are due for replacement according to the (district) technology plan.”
Shriver said while fixed resources from the bond have provided the district with major technological upgrades throughout the past four years, those resources have been allocated and general fund dollars must now be spent again.
“Because of the bond we haven’t had to allocate any general fund dollars to technology because the bond has covered a great deal of our needs, but as we move forward, we know we’re going to have to start putting money back into general fund line items for technology replacement,” she said.
The result by the board decision will see a purchase of 96 HP Computers and 80 21-inch monitors at a total cost of $61,374.08. According to Shriver, the cost is a fraction of what is actually necessary to meet all necessary technology upgrades for the district.
”We looked at everything that we need,” she said. “What we would need is a little more than $200,000, but we only have $28,000 currently in that line item (in the budget).”
Shriver said the district would have been aided by a countywide technology millage that failed earlier in February during a special Ionia County election.
“Unfortunately that millage didn’t pass, so we prioritized to find out what exactly we can get by with in 2014-2015 to give our teachers the tools that they need to implement the technology in the curriculum that they need,” she said.
Shriver said the purchase of $61,374.08 in computers and monitors will be sufficient at this time for the district.
Board Vice President Timothy Flynn said the expenditure is a large but necessary amount for the district to incur.
“It is a big price tag, but we don’t want to get caught in the same situation a few years ago when we had an aging fleet of busses and we had to take a big hit in order to maintain that service,” he said. “Technology is such a key component to learning, I just think that we cannot afford not to put this back in the budget. I fully support this, and we were able to get a really fantastic price.”
Board members also voted unanimously to approve the purchase next year’s paper order for the district at a cost of $12,949.68 from the Contract Paper Co. The purchase includes 478 cases of paper, down from 706 cases in 2013-2014, which were purchased at a cost of $17,957.
Shriver said Secretary Val Clementz was able to “find the best deal” for paper, which has dropped in cost over the past few years due to less paper being consumed by the district.
Board President Tom Humphreys said he was pleasantly surprised with the low cost.
“I always ask every year, how much is this compared to years past?” he said. “Usually our paper orders are over $20,000, and last year it was $17,000. It used to be as high as $28,000. I think a good portion of it has to do with the one-to-one technology, I think teachers are embracing it.”
Board members also voted unanimously to increase lunch prices throughout the district as a result of meal prices and nutritional standards set forth by the United State Department of Agriculture.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a federal act that was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2010, and is part of the reauthorization fund for child nutrition.
Lunch prices will go from $2.25 to $2.35 at the elementary level and from $2.50 to $2.60 at the middle school and high school level.
“Unfortunately, this was not our choice,” Shriver said. “This is what we have to do to maintain our participation in the national school lunch program.”
In other matters …
The Belding Area Schools Board of Education:
• Unanimously approved the Ionia County Intermediate School District (ICISD) budget. The budget is a deficit budget with $3,906,085 in revenue and $4,023,839 in expenditures, resulting in a deficit of $117,754. The resulting fund balance is healthy at $320,157.
• Unanimously approved the disposal of the district’s oldest school bus by selling it at auction in Kent County in July.
• Unanimously approved the renewal of the food service management contract with Chartwells for one year with up to four one-year renewals.
• Unanimously approved a resolution to replace paying agent bond registrar Bank of New York Mellon and appoint Huntington Bank as successor paying agent for the 2006 bond.