The Anniston school board on Tuesday unanimously approved a vendor that will provide laptop computers for every high school student in the district.
The company, InCare K-12 of Montgomery, will provide 512 Google Chromebooks to students and faculty at Anniston High School for a cost of $170 per computer.
Amy Hurst, technology director for Anniston City Schools, told the board that InCare wanted to meet with faculty for planning sessions before rolling out the program. After the meeting, Hurst said that rollout should take place around the week of Valentine’s Day.
Hurst also answered questions from Anniston attorney Donald Stewart about the laptop project. Stewart hired Birmingham-based Slappey Communications to install new wireless internet routers, fiber optic cables and new internet-based phone systems at several Anniston schools and at the system’s central office over the summer. The firm’s work was paid for by money from a pollution settlement with Monsanto Chemical Company.
Stewart asked if there were deficiencies in the work performed by Slappey, because the board agreed to use a $196,000 federal grant to pay for work toward more fiber cables and switches. Stewart said he was under the impression the work done by Slappey would take care of all the technology needs for students and faculty, while the grant money could go toward getting laptops to all the students in the system.
Hurst said the district’s wireless infrastructure works great, but that many computers, especially desktops in libraries and labs, still use ethernet cables and the system’s older switches.
Superintendent Darren Douthitt said the grant was earmarked for infrastructure items like fiber cables. And board members reminded Stewart that the district applied for the grant money before Stewart agreed to invest the settlement money in the technology improvements.
Stewart asked Hurst to provide him the cost of rolling out the laptop initiative in all grades as well as the cost of any additional servers needed. Once he has that, he said, he will talk with school officials and see if a deal is possible.
“And we’ll get it in writing next time,” Stewart said.
In other business, the board:
— Agreed to meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 8 for a work session. At the session, the district’s chief financial officer would present a draft of a cost-saving plan requested by board member Robert Houston.
— Recognized nine Anniston Middle School students who are members of the Anniston Community Education Foundation’s Girls Who Code program, which introduces young women to science, technology, engineering and math.
— Agreed to meet at 5 p.m. Feb. 15 and to try to book South Highlands Community Center for the event. Board members agreed that they should begin holding meetings throughout the district in the hopes of further engaging the community.
— Agreed to better inform the public about any meetings the superintendent or board members attend concerning education. The comments come after many in the community expressed concern after Houston, board member Joan Frazier, Douthitt and Anniston Mayor Jack Draper met with Sen. Del Marsh and other education officials in a meeting that covered charter schools in Anniston.