Long Beach school officials announced the district’s technology plans for the next three years, part of an effort to align with new state requirements and adopt a model that aims to provide high quality technology-based education services to all students.
Director of Instructional Technology Patrick Kiley-Rendon presented the district’s technology plan at the Oct. 11 Board of Education meeting, where he discussed the future of the Google Chromebook initiative, among other things.
The three-year plan was submitted to the State Education Department earlier this year as required by Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. The plans are intended to focus on a district’s vision for instruction, purchasing and upgrading equipment “to ensure that every child has equitable access to the highest quality educational opportunities, services and supports in schools that provide effective instruction aligned to the state’s standards, as well as positive learning environments so that each child is prepared for success in college, career and citizenship,” according to the department.
The district is required to ensure that its plans meet the educational technology requirements set by the Board of Regents. The guidelines for the plans were released by the state last year.
“The burden is going to fall on you in terms of keeping ahead of the wave and the change in technology, because it seems that the changes are just very, very quick,” School Board President Dr. Dennis Ryan said to Kiley-Rendon.
In previous years, the district purchased Chromebooks and SMART Boards using funds that were approved through the Smart Schools Bond Act, a $2 billion bond that New York voters approved in 2014 to improve educational technology and security infrastructure in school districts across the state, as well as funds in the general operating budget. The district has bought more than 3,000 laptops since the initiative kicked off last year.
Ryan asked about the lifespan of the Chromebooks and whether or not the district would need to invest more money into a replacement for the future.
“With the grant that the state gave us,” Ryan said, referring to the Smart Schools Bond Act funds, “it was easy for us to go out and buy Chromebooks and that kind of equipment, but that was a gift, and the gift does not keep on giving, and equipment runs out. What lifespan can we expect from that initiative before we have to go out and spend another few million in terms of software equipment for our students and staff?”
“The double-edged sword of getting any bond money like that is you get all of this great equipment at one time, but that also means that the equipment starts to reach the end of its life and obsoletion all at the same time,” Kiley-Rendon said, adding that he doesn’t think the district would see an annual price tag of anything near a million dollars. “One of the benefits of when you start to purchase your own equipment and it’s a planned item in your budget, is you can spread out those lifespans instead of them all turning into bricks on the same day.”
District Chief Operating Officer Michael DeVito said that money was put into this year’s budget to allow for the district to replace some of the used Chromebooks.
“We decided [the lifespan of the Chromebooks] is about three years, and we have already started to replace some of them,” he said at the meeting. “We’ve already gone through one lifespan on some of the units,” adding that the district plans to replace the laptops on a rolling, three-year basis.
Additionally, DeVito said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky earmarked $100,000 for the Long Beach School District, though it has not yet been approved by the state, which would go toward the district’s makerspaces, or innovation labs — spaces that enhance student interaction with current technology and promotes science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, learning.
The elementary schools began using the makerspaces in the beginning of the school year, DeVito said. Classes are able to use the rooms to conduct technology-based projects on a rotating basis.
State Education Department officials said they would collect the plans and review them.