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Sharyland ISD to continue investing in technology

After purchasing $100,000 worth of Wi-Fi hotspots for students earlier this past spring, the Sharyland Independent School District will continue to offer tech support to students attending school from home.

During the district’s upcoming school board meeting, trustees will vote on purchasing new Chromebooks for students to assist them in schoolwork.

The meeting, set for Tuesday, May 26, will have trustees voting on purchasing either 2,500 Chromebooks for students, or 4,100 at nearly $670,000 or $979,950, respectively.

Both options will also come with new software to track Chromebooks and allow students to check them out at a flat rate of an additional $13,775.

The item was presented to school board trustees by district Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Pamela Montalvo during a Monday school board workshop.

“It will become part of the instruction. It already is, but it consists of kids having to go to computer labs for online access,” Montalvo told the board. “I know high school students who do all their schoolwork on their phone, so it really depends on the resources available to students but what’s nice about the Chromebook is this will be a device in every kid’s hand whether it be at home or in a classroom.”

According to district Chief Technology Officer David Culberson, Sharyland ISD currently has five to 10 mobile “computers on wheels,” or COWS per campus that each houses 36 Chromebooks. “Option A,” which will purchase an additional 2,500 Chromebooks, will distribute the laptops to students on a as needed basis. “Option B” will provide one Chromebook per student.

“We have the infrastructure for it,” Culberson said. “We are preparing for a scenario where students still aren’t back in school in the fall, or a hybrid scenario where some students are on campus and others are at home, and a scenario where, miraculously, all students are back on campus. Either way, whatever the scenario we’ll be ok.”

Culberson added that even if students were to return to class this coming school year, they’d still benefit from having more Chromebooks anyway.

“The beauty behind it is if we do this, those devices can be issued to create a COW in every classroom for students to use all the time and check out in class for that period and give it back when they finish the class,” Culberson said. “Signing in will be synchronized so you can run through several devices in different classrooms and your stuff will be there. It’s a win-win.”

According to Montalvo, students will benefit from a Chromebook to work off as 97 percent of students have been engaged in online instructional materials in the last few weeks.

“We bring this to you and tell you this is what we need to move forward depending on once you tell us what option to go with,” Montalvo told the board. “Then we will do our job as a school district to find the best way to come forward with that money which may be through strategic funding or pulled from the fund balance or as a budget amendment.”

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