An infusion of technology

School board to buy new PCs, Chromebooks

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck school system will soon receive a technological upgrade.

The Board of Education approved purchasing new personal computers and Chromebooks for the schools during its March 13 meeting.

“We’re looking to take a leap forward in technology with the PCs people use in the schools everyday and putting Chromebooks in the hands of teachers and children in the classrooms,” Director of Information Technology Alan Merly said.

The district will purchase 800 PCs, along with the necessary support service and software, for $168,000. As well as the new PCs, the district will buy 500 Lenovo Chromebooks, 500 USB mice, 16 carts and professional instillation for $230,000.

The $398,000 will come from the board’s technical reserve budget. This budget was created with a surplus the board had at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

In January the board received a Connecticut State Technology Grant for $145,000. This grant will fund the initial purchase, which is currently underway, of 270 Chromebooks, nine carts, and 12 network switches, Merly said.

The remaining PCs and Chromebooks will be rolled out in the 2014-15 school year.

“This purchase will give every student, teacher, principal and staff member a huge leap forward in capability,” Merly said.

Merly said the district needed to purchase the PCs to replace the current computers, which are getting old and in constant need of repairs.

“Too much of the equipment spends its time being fixed rather than in the hands of children being used,” Merly said. “As those three or four machines sit in the corner broken, that is three or four students who are doubling up with their neighbor and they’re just not getting the hands on experience they should be.”

Merly said the current equipment was purchased piecemeal as it was needed rather than all at once. Purchasing all of the computers at once will provide equitable access to technology to all students.

“Even the children from school to school are not using the same equipment,” Merly said.

The PCs the board is planning to buy will be between two and three years old and come with a three-year warranty, Merly said.

“It will allow every classroom, every lab, every teacher the ability to have a more robust and interactive environment and share newer content,” Merly said.

Merly said the Chromebooks will change how schools think about a computer lab. Rather than being a specific room in the building, the computer labs will be 30 Chromebooks on a cart that can be brought into any classroom.

“The idea of the Chromebooks is to create a mobile lab classroom. So we want to shift the paradigm a bit and have the labs come to the children rather than the children being herded down to the labs,” Merly said.

Merly said these mobile labs have the potential to save the schools space by allowing them to take one of their computer labs offline. In addition the students can use the Chromebooks for the new state assessment tests, which require internet access, he said.

When the Chromebooks are not in use they will be locked in the carts and locked in a room.

Business Manager Robert Butler said the Chromebooks offer an array of educational tools to teachers and students.

Merly said he recommended purchasing the Chromebooks because they require a lot less management and overhead than a traditional computer. They also have a solid-state hard drive, which means they can be ready to be used in under 10 seconds.

Merly said that he chose the Lenovo Chromebook because it is designed to resist shock, which will help protect them against students who may accidently drop them.

“The sales rep, in his demonstration, told me to drop it on the concrete floor. Then I opened it up and it booted up fine,” Merly said.

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