By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Amid the brand new campuses, renovations and athletic services questions included as a part of the $491.7 million Liberty Hill ISD bond bundle on the Might 1 poll is Proposition B, which asks voters to approve $eight million for varsity expertise.
Extra particularly, the ask is for funds to satisfy the wants of the district’s new one-to-one gadget initiative that ensures a pc gadget for each scholar and instructor.
However what number of units does that imply the district wants?
The district has roughly 5,700 college students at the moment utilizing units, together with about 700 employees members needing units, however it isn’t a tough quantity as a result of extra college students are added often, and a straight one-to-one doesn’t perform properly.
“One of many issues I inform individuals on a regular basis is a one-to-one program requires greater than that,” stated LHISD Chief Expertise Officer Jay Olivier. “In case you have 5,700 college students and 5,700 units you don’t have sufficient. What occurs is the very first day you set them on the market one thing goes to interrupt or one thing goes to occur and also you gained’t have a spare gadget for them to proceed working. It’s a must to have sufficient for those who break or must be repaired.”
The objective is to have 5 to 10 p.c extra units than the full wanted.
“You additionally need to have sufficient units for the expansion we’re always seeing,” he stated. “We’re seeing new college students each single day so we have now to ensure we are able to sustain with these new college students in addition to sustain with the breakage, the repairs and extra wants that come up.”
In line with Chief Monetary Officer Rosanna R. Guerrero, the district spent about $800,000 on units this yr alone in ramping up the one-to-one program, and that price was aided with CARES Act funds and different monies from Texas Schooling Company.
“This was the primary yr that Liberty Hill ISD went to a one-to-one gadget ratio,” she stated. “We’ve by no means had that earlier than and due to the pandemic and the necessity to do extra on-line instruction there was this surge to get 100 p.c to one-to-one. Now we have now to take care of that and we don’t have entry within the price range to have these forms of greenback objects as a result of that one-to-one ratio may be very demanding.”
The bond proposition is important as a result of buying new units every year on the price wanted at the moment doesn’t match into the price range.
The district has been primarily utilizing two units, an iPad on the youthful grades and Chromebooks for all others, however via suggestions and evaluation that’s anticipated to vary some.
“We reevaluate that often and have only in the near past been via the method of reevaluating the youthful and higher grade ranges,” Olivier stated. “We make changes yearly primarily based on advances in expertise and what’s accessible and what the wants are for college kids and academics.”
The plan now could be to proceed utilizing iPads via first grade, then transfer college students to Chromebooks starting in second grade.
“These will present some additional performance,” Olivier stated. “College students at these grade ranges will profit enormously from gaining access to a touchscreen on the units. The touchscreen gives a tactile expertise for these college students that works very well. We will convey that into the decrease grade ranges whereas nonetheless offering a tool that has a full measurement keyboard and primary mouse help to allow them to study these expertise as properly and actually shift to the extra intensive, inventive tasks they do as they grow old.”
The Chromebooks might be used up via eighth grade, after which starting in ninth grade shift to a Home windows laptop computer.
“The opposite shift we’re , primarily based on suggestions we’ve had, is altering our highschool college students over to a Home windows PC laptop computer as an alternative of the Chromebooks we’ve been utilizing,” Olivier stated. “The Chromebooks have been profitable for the primary couple of years, however at this level the quantity of use the scholars are bringing to the classroom and the quantity of inventive processes and superior work they’re doing at these ranges they’ve actually reached the restrict of what we are able to do with the Chromebooks at this level.”
iPads and Chromebooks are about $250 to $300 per gadget, with the Home windows PC laptops being increased at about $400, however these costs are depending on specs in addition to different components.
“The price of units have modified a bit now versus when you’d have requested me a yr and a half in the past,” Olivier stated. “One of many penalties of this international pandemic has been provide chain disruptions which have induced what was a consumers market – the place I used to be getting issues properly beneath what the standard asking worth was – to shift, and now there usually are not almost as many reductions and there are again orders.”
Nailing down the lifespan of those units shouldn’t be so simple as selecting a date resulting from various components.
“One is the producers have been working actually onerous to increase the life farther than we might have thought,” he stated.
“We nonetheless have Chromebooks in circulation and dealing that we purchased my first yr within the district (six years in the past). They’re clearly a number of the ones we see the very best stage of repairs wanted and so they’re not the nicest ones on the market, however they’re nonetheless useful. That’s fairly a feat.”
However Olivier stated the goal is 4 years with the choice of retaining them in service a firth yr if wanted.
Even in later years they’ll usually be repurposed for a lot of makes use of even when not appropriate for probably the most high-end wants and performance.
Whereas there’s a goal date, Olivier stated it’s a rather more finessed course of when deciding when to exchange them.
“For Chromebooks and most units what we truly have a look at is historic traits and traditionally how lengthy we’ve been in a position to maintain these units in,” Olivier stated. “We’ve monitoring on each single gadget we’ve bought within the district. We have a look at when it was bought, we have a look at the manufacturing date and we put a ticking clock on every one. As a result of we’re not all the time correct in that we alter these yr by yr and reevaluate.
“Generally we’re in a position to get an additional yr of life out of one thing as a result of there wasn’t as a lot development that yr as we thought there can be and a few years we aren’t in a position to get as a lot as we thought as a result of a major change occurred. We go mannequin by mannequin and I’ve spreadsheets upon spreadsheets that present all of the completely different fashions we have now, their anticipated life, what number of of every one we have now, the place they’re and we have a look at that always.”
As a result of the pc units have a a lot shorter lifespan than the brand new buildings and renovations present in different propositions within the bond bundle, Guerrero stated the financing plan is far completely different as properly.
“We are going to break up the acquisition of those units on a yearly foundation as a result of we’re rising yr after yr,” Guerrero stated. “The units are wanted not solely to exchange the outdated units, however we additionally want to purchase units for the extra college students and employees approaching board. Yearly we do a sale, we get away the price of the bonds and ensure that we finance the units individually and we pay these off inside the first 5 years in order that once we repay the bonds that’s truly the lifetime of the gadget, so it’s totally depreciated and the debt related to the gadget is aligned.”
Gross sales over time
Just like the plan to expend the gadget funds over time, the identical will maintain true for the rest of the bond funds to higher handle the monies.
“The bonds might be offered primarily based on want, so we’re not going to exit and promote all $491.7 million in a single sale,” Guerrero stated. “We’re braking them up and proper now the plan is to do annual gross sales, with the primary sale occurring this summer time for about $160 million to get began on the extra wants when it comes to building timelines and such.”
The flexibleness in when to promote the bonds positions the district to keep away from transferring too rapidly ought to the expansion sample in Liberty Hill shift or gradual.
“There isn’t any explicit timeline,” Guerrero stated. “If the expansion doesn’t come as quick as we’re anticipating and we don’t need to promote, we are able to decelerate our building timeline. I can do for instance 160 (million) this summer time, and if the expansion is definitely slowing down then I don’t need to promote for perhaps two years alter as a result of perhaps two years is when the expansion is coming. We will play it by ear, however the draw back to that’s if it comes sooner then we could also be in a state of affairs the place we are able to’t promote them quick sufficient.”