May 7 – Public schools in Frederick County are expected to have a Chromebook computer for every elementary student by this fall, thanks to one-time funding from the county.
County Superintendent Jan Gardner allocated $1.6 million in her recently proposed budget to help the Frederick County School Board achieve the “one-to-one” baseline at the elementary level.
The district already has a Chromebook for every middle and high school student. Primary teachers have expressed their desire to do the same.
“With everything that has happened over the past two years, much of the teaching material and many resources are designed for digital applications,” said Missy Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association. “And students have become much more adept in the digital sphere.”
At many county elementary schools, Dirks said, there’s one Chromebook for every three or four students.
“You can’t even associate,” Dirks said. “So sometimes they just have to give up using the equipment.”
Additionally, Dirks said, entire schools often have to share one or two carts full of Chromebooks and chargers, which only one class can use at a time. Technology is helpful for some skills or lesson plans, but not all, Dirks said, and teachers can’t adjust their teaching schedule based on a long waiting list for the computer cart.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work anymore in the sequence of the program you’re trying to cover,” Dirks said. “You can’t wait two weeks to do this activity.”
FCPS budget officer Heather Clabaugh told the board during a recent working session that there should be enough Chromebooks for every student at the start of the 2022-23 school year, but not on the first day. of teaching.
The county is preparing a budget amendment to release the $1.6 million in funds before the next fiscal year takes effect July 1, Clabaugh said. Then the school board will draft its own budget amendment, allowing it to purchase the computers by July 1.
FCPS staff were pleasantly surprised to hear an expected delivery time of three to four weeks, Clabaugh said. He had been prepared for “significant delays” and had said in previous meetings that it could take months to receive the Chromebooks after placing the order.
“It’s the time of year when our suppliers tend to stock up knowing that in the summer a lot of schools will be buying,” Clabaugh said.
To save money, the district previously planned to gradually transition to one-to-one over the next two years.
FCPS plans to hire two additional IT specialists next year, anticipating a greater need with more young students using technology.
“We could use more IT and user support specialists right now, without adding the extra Chromebooks,” Dirks said. “They will need more staff to support the digital environment.”
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