Sumner School District Superintendent Sara Johnson hopes that each student in the district will have their own personal computer by 2017.
It may sound impossible, but Johnson said the district isn’t too far away from it.
“If you’re really going to be able to reach students right where they are, then we need to rely on technology, and we’re in a sweet spot, because we’re ready,” Johnson said.
The Sumner School District received a windfall of savings on its $114 million 2007 capital bond starting in the 2009-10 school year. Bids on capital projects were coming in well below original estimates. At the same time, the state Legislature changed state law to allow capital bond revenues to be allocated for technology investments.
“The silver lining to the economic downturn was the surplus savings,” said Debbie Campbell, executive director of business services for the school district. “This surplus has given us the opportunity to see the possibilities.”
The total surplus in savings came in at $19 million. A big chunk of that was realized from the Lakeridge Middle School replacement project. It was originally budgeted at $37.3 million but came under budget at $27.4 million, an estimated savings of $9.9 million.
Then the district’s board of directors approved a $5 million allocation to technology investments.
The district embarked on a five-year funding strategy, starting in the 2010-11 school year, to invest the funds. During summer 2011, the district invested $580,000 in fiber and wireless installation in schools throughout the district.
“What we had in most buildings was no more than what you would find in your personal home,” Campbell said. “This caused computers to freeze or knocked you out of the system.”
Additionally, the district invested in technology upgrades at four elementary schools and the two high schools that were not included in the capital bond project. It also added a technology classroom at Mountain View Middle School and upgraded library computer stations district-wide.
Campbell said that helped to create an equal playing field for all students.
The remaining savings will be utilized during the next two years for professional development on how to use the technology. Campbell said part of it will pay for the Measures of Academic Progress program.
“This allows teachers to put students’ test results into a system,” Campbell said. “It informs teacher instruction of what a student needs in order to improve their learning, and it’s in real time.”
MAP emphasizes math and language arts assessments, Campbell said.
Johnson and Campbell said they’re also thankful for a $200,000 increase in state funding to the district’s general fund. Part of the funding went toward the purchase of 1,500 Google Chromebooks, which were issued to students in 50 third- and fourth-grade classrooms throughout the district.
The school district plans to look at a future mechanism to raise additional funding and hopes parents and taxpayers will support the dream to bring each student a personal computer, Johnson said.
“Digital learning can be a catalyst for propelling students to the next level,” she said.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.