Public school officials are seeking city approval of a deal that would bring 800 Chromebooks to the district’s fifth through eighth graders.

Finance Director Rick Belden told the Board of Education, at its meeting Sept. 25, of the recommendation of the district’s IT department to accept the bid, totaling $258,000, from Trumbull-based Wholesale Computer Exchange. The Board of Education’s request calls for a 48-month lease financing deal with an annual cost of $71,373.12.

“This is a two-part process,” said Belden. “The Board of Education awarded the bid for $258,000 to Wholesale Computer. If we were buying outright, we would then place the order using BOE budget funds. Because we are looking to lease the acquisition, the Board of Aldermen, as the city fiscal authority, need to approve the lease.”

The Board of Education now go before the aldermen for final approval. This request is on the agenda for the next full Board of Aldermen meeting on Thursday, Oct. 10.

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.

“The requirement for optional lease pricing provides the district with the ability to leverage limited budget resources to support multi-year acquisition of required technology,” stated the summary.

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 shiping 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.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com