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Watauga School Board To Review $2M 1-to-1 Laptop Leasing Proposal Monday Evening

By Jesse Wood

Jan. 10, 2014. The Watauga County Board of Education will review a “1-to-1” Hewlett Packard laptop proposal at its school board meeting on Monday, Jan. 13.

The 39-month lease of laptops would, if approved, begin in February 2014 and run through June 2017. It would cost $1.9 million. All students in grades eighth through 12th will receive a laptop and classes of sixth and seventh graders would share one cart of computers for every two classrooms. This proposal also includes laptops for all teachers – from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Fourth graders Eli Giles and Sophie Beach using laptops. Photo courtesy of WCS
Fourth graders Eli Giles and Sophie Beach using laptops. Photo courtesy of WCS

In addition to the $1.9-million lease, “other items needed” include backpacks for grades eighth to 12 that costs $87,111; laptop carts for grades sixth through seventh that costs $42,593; and instructional technology staffing needs costing $60,000 to $100,000 annually, according to documents in Monday’s meeting packet

The proposal documents note that Hewlett Packard will purchase the used Dell laptops at a minimum of $50 per laptop totaling $70,000. The yearly expenses of the three-year lease are listed below:

  • Total First-Year Expenses: $803,144
  • Total Second-Year Expenses: $743,440
  • Total Third-Year Expenses: $743,440
    • Total Investment: $2,290,024

Future goals include extending the “1-to-1” program to sixth and seventh grades in 2015-16 year and the “1-to-1” program to kindergarteners through fifth graders in 2016-17 year. WCS spokesman Marshall Ashcraft noted that tablets would likely be used for K-5 rather than laptops.

WCS began the “1-to-1” initiative in 2010, whereby all high school students and all faculty and administrators were given laptops, which are near the end of its expected lifecycles, Ashcraft said, adding that it has been considered a success. 

Unlike the proposal moving forward, that previous three-year cycle featured purchased, not leased, computers. The school system was assisted with the purchase of the laptops with funds through grants, from local businesses, and, of course, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, which provides a huge chunk of the school’s funding. 

Chair Nathan Miller of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners hasn’t minced words when stating that he isn’t a proponent of spending more money, so that every student can bring home a laptop or tablet. At a joint meeting between the school board and commissioners in November, Miller said, “There are trends and spending, obviously, that I disagree with.”

Last November, Watauga County Schools held a Technology Showcase that highlighted educational benefits. In a release after the event, Director of Elementary Education Tamara Stamey said that the school system wanted to put more resources into the hands of students and teachers.

“With more widespread availability of instructional technology, we could provide more customized instruction, greater opportunities for collaborative learning, faster access to a wider range of learning resources, and better preparation for our students to be career and college ready after high school,” Stamey said. “This isn’t just a budget issue, but that’s an important part of it, and funding for additional technology is an issue we have to address if we’re going to get our students to the next level.”