By Christine Sampson
Sag Harbor School District administrators have embarked on a plan to outfit all classrooms at Pierson Middle-High School with Chromebooks and beef up its security systems, school officials said during Monday’s 2017-18 budget workshop.
The district is planning to spend $100,000 on 400 Chromebooks, which are smaller versions of laptop computers that are outfitted with Internet access and Google-based applications. The district has also budgeted $37,800 for Chromebook carts, which store and charge the devices and allow them to be moved to other classrooms if the need arises.
“Increased access to technology can positively impact the learning environment when it is used thoughtfully,” Pierson principal Jeff Nichols said in an email Tuesday. “Access to information can assist students in all of the academic disciplines.”
The planned Chromebook purchase for Pierson continues a program started at Sag Harbor Elementary School a few years ago, in which students in second grade are introduced to the technology and teachers incorporate them into their lessons and projects in successive grades.
“It’s worked out very well for us because they stay in the classroom. We’re looking to duplicate that model [at Pierson],” said Scott Foster, Sag Harbor’s director of technology at Monday’s meeting. “…It’s a wonderful opportunity to finish off what we’ve started with the children over at the elementary school.”
Superintendent Katy Graves said the district had done its research on what is called “one-to-one” technology use – meaning an educational model in which every student has access to a computer – and concluded that its own method was better than other schools’ approach of giving kids their own school-owned computers to take home and travel with between classrooms.
“By having a Chromebook in every classroom, we keep the control as a school district without the outliers that can happen when students take them home,” she said, referring to computers that can break, get viruses or have other issues.
Still, even with the added expense of 400 Chromebooks and the related carts, the district’s technology budget is slated to decrease slightly, from about $633,000 to about $620,000, or just over 2 percent. Mr. Fisher said the district offset the cost by owning its copying machines, rather than leasing them, as well as seeing some one-time costs, such as a new elementary school gymnasium audio-visual system, come out of the budget.
School officials also said they will be spending about $8,800 more on alarm systems, up to $19,520, because they have an additional building to monitor and because their overall needs have changed.
“We actually have people watching our cameras 24-7,” Mr. Fisher said. “They’re really staying on top of all these different things, but that’s why you’re seeing changes. … We’re going to an expanded system and a much more comprehensive solution.”
The district also presented draft budgets for the maintenance and operation of its buildings and grounds. Eric Bramoff, the supervisor of that department, said the district is projecting spending less money on heating oil, electricity and natural gas, even though the district has added an entire building – the former Stella Maris Regional School – to its footprint.
“The pumps that are operating in our district are more efficient after our bond project, so we are going to be using less electricity even though we have more space,” he said.
The district is projecting spending at least $1,000 more next year on water, up to $9,000, an adjustment that Mr. Bramoff said was done in anticipation of having to adjust the maintenance on its grass athletic field at Pierson. Additional impacts to the budget are expected elsewhere in the budget because of the anticipated grass field, which is up for community approval on February 15.