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Thursday, October 10, 2013

VOL. 19, NO. 10

School board to talk future levies

Nathan Whalen photo

Coupeville High School juniors Collin Winchester and Victoria Hawkey work with teacher Colleen Fox while working on Chromebooks school officials recently purchased. The Coupeville School District has purchased hundreds of computers thanks to a tech levy voters approved in 2010.

Bringing technology into classrooms Voter-approved levy helps update computers, other electronics By Nathan Whalen Staff reporter

Thanks to a voter-approved tax levy, the Coupeville School District has spent more than $1 million upgrading computers in the classroom. Voters nearly four years ago approved a technology levy that gave the school district $300,000 a year. That levy expires in 2014. For that investment, school officials have purchased 738 devices over the past four years. Those devices include iMacs (313), iPads (197), Chromebooks (192), displays, LCD projectors and a new school district wide phone system that was recently installed.

The phone system, which is Internet based, cost approximately $17,000. The dollars also paid for professional development for staff. Students at the high school have been using the most recent technological upgrade — Chromebooks. High school principal Sheldon Rosenkrance said the high school purchased 60 Chromebooks in the spring 2013 and then purchased an additional 180 at the start of the school year. Students are using the Chromebooks during class to access information, use electronic versions of curriculum and complete assignments. It also provides basically a mobile computer lab. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Rosenkrance said about the Chromebooks. School officials went to the voters in 2010 for approval of the levy so they could update the computers that had become obsolete and, at the time, didn’t meet with state standards. “It’s a huge relief to me that the community is willing to support technology,” Shank said. Jim Shank, superintendent of the Coupeville School District, said the staff will start replacing computers and other devices when it reaches five years old.

The school district will continue its efforts to maintain and upgrade its technology. He said that every student and every staff member would have access to a mobile computing device. He added the district needs to provide the same technology that students would expect to encounter in the workplace. He added that state testing will soon be computer based and the district needs to make sure enough devices are available to accommodate students. With the expiration of the school district’s technology levy approaching, Shank said he is recommending the school board approve a resolution to seek another four-year levy, which would go to voters in early 2014. He said the state doesn’t provide any dollars through the basic education allocation for technology improvements.

The Coupeville School Board will consider placing up to two levy proposals on the ballot in early 2014. The Central Whidbey based school district has two levies that are expiring at the end of 2014 — an operations levy and a technology levy. “We will be asking a renewal for both of these levies in February,” school board member Kathleen Anderson said during Tuesday’s voter forum at the Coupeville Recreation Hall. The operations levy brings in an estimated $2.4 million a year, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the school district’s $10 million budget. The technology levy provided the school district with $300,000 a year for four years to pay for computer upgrades and training. School officials have said the state’s Basic Education Allocation, which is based on student enrollment, doesn’t provide dollars for technology purchases. Both levies were approved by voters in 2010. Back then, 60.3 percent of the voters approved the operations levy and 57.7 percent of the voters approved the technology levy. Due to recent state legislation, school levies have to pass by a 50 percent simple majority. Superintendent Jim Shank said its up to the Coupeville School Board to decide what levy proposals to send to voters. Such an election could take place in February 2014. The school board is scheduled to talk about levies during the next meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 14 in the Coupeville Elementary School Library.

Whidbey Examiner, October 10, 2013  
Whidbey Examiner, October 10, 2013  

October 10, 2013 edition of the Whidbey Examiner