School technology plan OK’d

The plan could cost as much as $11.5 million.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:42 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

An updated technology plan approved by the Columbia School Board could cost as much as $11.5 million over the next three years, said Curt Fuchs, director of Instructional and Information Technology Services for the Columbia Public School District.

Under the new plan, IITS would replace old computers, update the district’s software system infrastructure and enhance its security system within the district’s network.

Fuchs proposed the revised technology plan for 2006 through 2009 at Monday’s school board meeting. Though the plan was approved, Fuchs called it a “road map,” and said the projected figure of $11.5 million, while difficult to attain, would be the amount necessary to have an ideal system.

The plan for 2005-06 is $7.6 million, which includes hardware, operational funds and personnel. Fuchs said the next plan will cost more because of rising costs in telecommunication, software programs and security audits.

Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent for administration, said the board is looking for ways to fund the program and is going to try to make the $11.5 million proposal a reality, including using operating funds or looking into the sale of bonds.

“We’re going to make every effort to make it attainable,” Cowherd said.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires public school districts to revise their technology plans every three years. The department gave five areas on which to focus while revising the plan, which IITS turned into goals for the next three years.

The areas are student learning, teacher preparation, administration and data management, resource distribution and use, and technical support.

Fuchs said IITS was successful in its 2003-06 plan. Over the past three years, about $7 million has been spent on technology upgrades and computers.

“We met a lot of our goals,” he said of the last plan. “We have made major achievements.”

Through that plan, the district acquired phones for all classrooms, increased the use of instructional technology within classes and secured more technicians for help support throughout the district.

Fuchs said that one thing the last plan did not accomplish was offering all students technology at home. He said about 20 percent of students do not have technology resources at home, a number he would like to lower.

During the board meeting, Fuchs talked about a project in which IITS worked with West Boulevard Elementary School, which offered students desktop computers to take home. This plan was to narrow the digital divide, or the gap between students with and without technology at home. The program did not do as well as Fuchs would have liked, he said, because the computers did not include modems and therefore did not have Internet access.

Other schools will look to benefit from the new plan as well. Sharon Salmons, a media specialist at Shepard Elementary School, said she thinks the new technology plan will move the schools in a good direction for the future of technology. But Salmons also said she is apprehensive about how soon technological changes under the plan will make it to the classroom.

“I have reservations on how quickly it will come about,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent Lynn Barnett said that the new plan looks attainable over three years but that the board should look specifically at the 2006-07 school year first.

“For next year, it looks like we will certainly be able to move along on the technology plan as expected,” she said.

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