DeKALB – Three local school districts have been approved for a collective $739,000 from a state loan program that will allow them to bolster technology offerings.
School districts in Sycamore, Hinckley-Big Rock and Sandwich were among 22 districts across Illinois granted a portion of $3.5 million awarded through the School Technology Revolving Loan Program, the Illinois State Board of Education announced Jan. 9.
Sycamore School District 427 was approved for the largest loan of any of district across the state, $402,700. Nicole Stuckert, director of financial services at District 427, said some of the money will be used to replace 210 computers for kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The remainder will be allocated to updating the district’s infrastructure in order to handle the increased capacity that will come with the one-to-one technology initiative officials plan to implement.
“We are preparing to put more technology in students’ hands and we want to make sure our system can handle the traffic,” Stuckert said.
The state’s technology loan is a three-year loan with a 2 percent interest rate. Districts repay the loan in six payments that are due twice a year.
Sycamore officials plan to use the entire amount the district received and to pay the state back using budget reserves.
Hinckley-Big Rock Superintendent Travis McGuire said his district aims to purchase mobile technology such as laptops or tablets for students to use during the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The new assessment will replace the Illinois Standard Achievement Test and the Prairie State Achievement Exam during the 2014-15 school year.
Students from third to 11th grades will be required to take the test, with all testing to be conducted within a 20-day span. McGuire hopes to avoid taking the entire 20 days to complete testing by using the new technology the loan will fund.
“We want to make sure any three grades can take the assessment at the same time to try and minimize the disruption to the educational environment,” McGuire said.
The district’s technology committee is investigating what technology would best serve students during the assessment as well as during regular class instruction throughout the school year.
Of the $96,700 the district received, McGuire hopes around $70,000 will suffice to purchase about 200 devices. This amount would be programmed into the next school year’s budget.
“We have some right now, but they are older and dated. It can be frustrating when your computer is slow, and we don’t want that at all to be a hindrance,” McGuire said.
Sandwich School District 430 officials plan to replace the operating system on about 530 computers used by kindergartners through eighth-graders. The district needs to replace the Microsoft Windows XP system because Microsoft will end support for it in April.
“Without the update we would have 500 or so computers we wouldn’t be able to use,” Glen Bloemker, District 430’s director of technology, said.
Sandwich received $238,750 and plans to use as much as possible to update the computers and laptops to Microsoft 7 or higher and purchase other software by this summer, Bloemker added.