Amy Hurst

Amy Hurst, technology director for Anniston schools, does everything from maintaining the central computer mainframe to service work on laptops. There's a push to update the gear and give students laptops. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

Anniston education leaders Tuesday mulled a $300,000 plan to put computers in the hands of every city high school student early next year.

Officials want to use money the Anniston City Council provided in September to buy 512 laptop computers and give them to all Anniston High students and faculty between January and February. The goal is to expand learning and tutoring opportunities for students, school officials say.

“People who can afford to put computers in the hands of students, I think they should,” Superintendent Darren Douthitt said after the meeting.

Douthitt said many people, including himself, would be unable to do their jobs today if they didn’t have computers. So, students shouldn’t be expected to learn without computers, he said.

The Anniston Board of Education discussed some of the details and logistics of the proposed project during the work session before its regular Tuesday meeting. The project is possible because of supplemental money the City Council added in its 2018 budget so the school system could implement technology upgrades.

Amy Hurst, technology director for the school system, said in the work session that she’d received quotes from multiple companies on the project, but that just four of them best met the board’s criteria and cost restrictions.

Robert Houston, board president, told Hurst that he and the board wanted her to provide a consolidated report on which  of the four companies would best serve the system’s needs.

“We want to have your evaluation of what you think,” Houston said to Hurst.

The board talked about possibly charging students $25 a year to help pay for maintenance costs of the computers. The board asked Hurst to look at similar school systems in the region and see what they charge, if anything, for their student computer programs.

“They need to have some skin in the game,” Houston said of students.

Currently, the Anniston school system doesn’t provide computers to all its students. Other districts in Calhoun County, like the Piedmont and Jacksonville school systems, have provided portable computers to most, if not all of their students over the last few years.

“We do have some mobile laptop labs at the high school, but primarily we have wired computers,” Douthitt said.

Douthitt said his idea is to give students the option to take their laptops home, giving them a tool to complete homework and projects, but also a way to receive online tutoring if needed.

Douthitt said that he and the board didn’t want to stop with just providing computers to high school students.

“The idea is to go back and find the funding for the other schools,” he said.

In a relatively brief regular meeting after the work session, the board dealt with routine business, including approving financial reports for the month. 

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.