While CCISD ordinarily requests replacements in the spring, a worldwide technology shortage has caused a delay of at least six months in receiving laptops, district staff said during discussions at a Sept. 27 board of trustees meeting.
“They’re not really available in a timely manner right now,” the district’s Chief Technology Officer Dustin Harden said during the meeting.
Technology officials identified a need to replace 14,000 devices for the 2021-22 school year as part of the district’s obsolescence device replacement for students, per board meeting documents. Of the 14,000 devices, 4,000 were scheduled to be ordered in late spring to replace five year old laptops in fall of 2022; the other 10,000 were scheduled to be ordered in late spring and would replace five-year-old laptops in the fall of 2023.
The cost is $413.73 per device, plus $619,080 for cases, tagging and other services, for a total of about $6.4 million. Trustees on Sept. 27 approved a one-time purchase for the laptops using capital funding, with requested reimbursement from two federal sources: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds and Emergency Connectivity Funds from the Federal Communications Commission.
The funds, if received, would cover the entire cost of laptop replacement, per board documents. District officials are unsure when they will be notified about ECF funding; if ECF funds are not available, the district will return to the board with a revised plan that tackles fewer replaced devices at once, district leaders said.
“We wanted to get ahead of other districts that were thinking about replacing their devices,” said Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Robert Bayard, who was the district’s chief technology officer until this academic year.
The FCC’s $7.1 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, helps schools and libraries provide tools and services for the remote learning needs of communities during COVID-19. The program is meant to cover reasonable costs of laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use, per board documents.
CCISD submitted an application for ECF funding during the filing window, which opened in June and closed mid-August, per board documents. The district can request up to $400 per device for reimbursement, and ESSER funding can allot reimbursements over the $400 threshold.
Devices purchased with federal funds must be distributed prior to June 30, per board documents. Under this plan, the next replacement would be in spring 2024 instead of spring 2023, district officials said Sept. 27.
“I’m really impressed at this plan of action and how much better of shape it leaves CCISD in than so many other peer districts,” trustee Jeff Larson said during the meeting. “I really appreciate the great work.”