By Chris Simones
The Warren County School System will receive more than 1,000 new electronic devices thanks to a $1.6 million federal grant.
The money comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“The CARES act is the federal act that was passed in order to help school systems regarding the times we’re in with COVID-19,” Director of Schools Grant Swallows told School Board members during their monthly meeting Thursday night at WCHS auditorium.
Swallows asked school system federal programs director Vickie Dodd to address the School Board regarding the grant. Dodd explained CARES money has to be spent in specific ways.
“The CARES grant brought in a little over $1.6 million. When we first started talking about this at the district level we prioritized three things,” Dodd said. “We prioritized technology equipment purchases because we knew from the spring that was high priority. We prioritized connectivity. We did a survey of our schools and teachers and we found out that one of the largest concerns they had was our students not being connected.”
“Then our third high priority area was curriculum development, where it worked with our technology world and still kept our kids on track,” Dodd said.
With those priorities in mind, the school system has placed an order for 533 Chromebooks for students and 505 MacBooks for teachers.
“I think we’re well on our way to equipping our students and that was our goal,” said Dodd.
The Chromebooks and MacBooks probably won’t arrive until October or November.
“We are really good with devices in Warren County,” Dodd said. “The 533 devices we ordered will be used and they are needed, but right now our device number to our student number is in really good shape.”
“You said really good shape but that doesn’t mean each student has one?” School Board member Helen Martin.
“Not yet,” Swallows answered. “We’ve made really great strides but we’re not one-to-one yet. I echo what she’s saying. We are in good shape, but at the end of the day, we’ve got some strides to go. Thus, we’re using some of this money to make this happen.”
Dodd pointed out there are some students who already have these devices at home and that should help the ratio.
Swallows emphasized the importance of families to utilizing devices they may already have, using his family’s home computer and his son as an example.
“We have a computer at home and he can use that,” Swallows said. “If we can adopt that philosophy for our families that they can use that device we can potentially provide all the devices we need to provide for students that need that,” said Swallows.
“I’m worried about the October or November date because we could really use those devices now,” Swallows added. “We have a lot of people who are ordering those devices right now and the demand is greater than the supply.”
Swallows commended Dodd and the rest of the team that formulated the spending plan.
“That’s a lot of money we could’ve just thrown at a lot of things, but at the end of the day, they were very strategic based on the needs of our kids going forward because we’re facing such unknown times,” Swallows said.