City and school officials have taken another step in improving what has been a strained relationship, joining forces to bring 800 Chromebooks to the district’s fifth through eighth graders.

The Board of Aldermen, at its meeting Thursday, approved a $158,000 allocation to aid in the purchase of the computers. The Board of Education has agreed to cover the remaining $100,000 to complete the acquisition.

“The school district is pleased our students will benefit from an agreement of the Board of Aldermen and Board of Education to provide needed tools for learning,” said school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, who was joined by district Finance Director Rick Belden, who helped shepherd this deal along with Mayor Mark Lauretti and Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr.

As part of the agreement, Anglace said the Board of Education has agreed to demonstrate how students’ results will be measured, provide a technology funding plan for the next eight years, and provide input from teachers, parents and the public on the technology use. Answers to these aldermen questions will be provided in three months.

The Board of Education had initially sought a 48-month lease financial deal with Trumbull-based Wholesale Computer Exchange with an annual cost of $71,373.12. But city officials decided that purchasing the Chromebooks was a better option.

Belden said the use of technology in classrooms is embedded in the delivery of instruction on a daily basis. Whether it is the use of interactive whiteboards, Chromebooks or iPads, Belden said today's students and teachers use these tools extensively and regularly.

“As a Google district, the availability and use of technology allows our staff and students to access myriad relevant and up-to-date curricular materials and information in real time,” said Belden. “In addition, state of Connecticut testing requirements are entirely technology-based and require adequate resources to allow our students to take these required tests in a timely manner.”

In regards to costs, Belden said the Board of Education budget needs to be able to sustain both the initial acquisition and the eventual replacement of technology.

“The use of alternate financing methodologies, such as multiyear leasing, allows the Board of Education to leverage our allocated budget resources,” said Belden. “Additionally, leasing allows for budget sustainability as we incorporate a certain critical level of budget resources to fund the technology acquisition and replacement budget line item.”

Belden said, ideally, over several budget years the technology financing line item will increase to a certain planned level that is supportive of the Board of Education technology acquisition and replacement plan.

“The acquisition of these Chromebooks supports the district initiative to provide the appropriate level of technology for use in a Google classroom instructional environment and for required state testing,” stated a document summarizing the bid responses and IT recommendations.

The bid specifics included the Chromebook as well as a warranty/replacement plan that covered all aspects of accidental damage and optional lease pricing. The district had budgeted $100,000 in the technology equipment line item in the 2019-20 school budget.

In all, the district received three bids, but Belden and the IT Department recommended the 48-month leasing option with Wholesale, which would provide Lenovo 300e Chromebooks and a warranty program that includes local depot capability for devices in need of repair.

“This local depot capability will allow us to have rapid turnaround of Chromebooks sent out for repair and will diminish our costs associated with packing and shipping and the requirement to maintain a larger spare Chromebook inventory,” according to the summary.

Belden also noted that the Board of Education would recoup the warranty costs over the lease term as “we will be charging a student insurance fee with the issuance of a Chromebook to the student.” That fee was $25 last year, but Belden said plans are to raise that fee to $30 this year.

Other business

The aldermen unanimously approved $42,000 to purchase of two unmarked police vehicles. The vehicles are certified pre-owned; one a 2016, the other a 2017, with mileage on both vehicles in the low- to mid-30,000s.

The aldermen also unanimously approved $18,000 to refurbish the driveway at the Nike Site. Lauretti said this work will be done in-house, with the funds needed only for the asphalt.