Green Forest board considers student laptops

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Some students in the Green Forest School District may soon see changes in the district’s plan to provide laptops to students.

During the district board of education meeting on Feb. 22, technology director Anthony Dale presented his master plan, which includes a recommendation and plans to provide each student in grades 9-12 — and possibly 6-12 in the future —with a Chromebook issued specifically to them.

According to superintendent Matt Summers, the plan would actually reduce the amount of money the district would spend on student devices.

Matt Summers

“The reason for that is in having our Chromebook carts in the rooms and check in and check out and sign in and sign out and charging and all of that, you end up having more devices than you really have to have,” Summers said. “We’re looking at a child actually having that device all their own, signed out to them, checked out to them, that kind of thing.”

In addition, the board heard recommendations on possible changes to its methods of purchasing devices.

“Maybe we look at a three-year lease with the fourth year we own it,” Summers said. “Maybe we look at it saying, ‘OK, we’re going to buy X amount of devices annually every year,’ and not have these peak-and-valley years.”

The difficulty there, Summer said, is that under the current plan, every once in a while the district would have to purchase a larger number of devices to replace aging technology.

“We have instances where this Chromebook is six years old, so therefore it’s fallen off,” Summer said. “As far as what we can upgrade and do, it’s really only good for the screen and the parts and we have these feast-or-famine buying years.”

The board decided to table the matter until its March meeting to give board members a chance to review the recommendations and give Dale an opportunity to present purchasing plans.

Last week’s meeting was rescheduled from its originally scheduled date of Feb. 15 after back-to-back winter storms dropped more than 8 inches of snow across Carroll County and even more in other parts of the state.

Aside from missing a few days of school and having to reschedule the board meeting, Summers said Green Forest’s schools weathered the storm in good condition, experiencing only a few frozen pipes on portable classroom buildings, but no breakage.

“It really was the best thing because we came back and wrapped them and insulated them and make sure we had them squared away in case we have weather like this in the future,” Summers said.

In other business, the board voted to approve the purchase of three new buses using funds the district received under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund provisions in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act that was passed in December.

“Under the ESSER II funds that we have received allocation for, air-conditioned school buses are an allotment in that because of its air quality,” Summers said, explaining that the district is still seeking some clarification regarding the use of those funds. “We were told all along that that was fine; it was an allowable expenditure. Now we’re hearing that it’s not going to be quite that easy and we’re searching for more guidance.”

The board moved forward with the decision to purchase the three buses — two 54-passenger buses and one 77-passenger bus — using the ESSER II funds as part of next year’s budget with the understanding that some amendments to the order might be necessary.

“We’re in constant communication with the [bus company] right now and getting some more guidelines on it that we did approve that and that could be amended,” Summers said. “We could come back and say, ‘OK, we purchased three, we are going to purchase two because the guidelines have been clarified for us.’ ”

Summers said making the decision to purchase the buses now was necessary in order to have them in time for the next school year.

“The timeline is of the essence,” Summers said. “If you’re getting a new bus, you have to order it now to have it by July.”

The three new buses are expected to cost a total of $301,125.

In other business, the board entered into an agreement with Midwest Sports of Tulsa to provide basic athletic equipment to the district. Summers explained the new agreement was necessary because the school’s previous supplier, Best Sports, a company based in Fayetteville and Rogers, had been bought out by Midwest.

“In that changeover, they have offered us a school athletic agreement,” Summers said. “That’s 10 percent money back on anything we buy from Midwest, and we would be in Under Armour school.”

Under the agreement, any uniforms purchased by the school would be Under Armour products, but athletes would still be able to purchase and wear whatever brand footwear they preferred.

“There’s some savings, obviously, for us there [with the money back],” Summers said. “What I’m looking at in the deal is some potential savings and the possibility of having more for less.”

After meeting in a closed session, the board also approved a number of personnel changes, accepting the resignation of first-grade teacher Ashley Davis, effective at the end of the year; the retirements of high school English teacher Sharon Laborde and elementary ESL teacher Lynnette Jorgensen; and the hiring of Cody Sanders as an intermediate and middle school counselor. In addition, the contracts of all administrators and supervisors were renewed for the next year.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. March 15 in the high school library.

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