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Lake Placid school budget addresses technology needs

May 11, 2012

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Central School District is budgeting for a technology upgrade.

It's badly needed, according to Superintendent Randy Richards, who sat down on Thursday to discuss technology needs at the elementary and middle/high school.

In all, he said the district plans to spend about $400,000 to complete an overhaul of its technology infrastructure, upgrade desktop and laptop computers in the classrooms, and modernize mobile laboratories. Richards noted the net cost to the district is actually $256,000 because $144,000 will come back to the district in the form of state aid through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

"That's a pretty prudent way to do it," he said.

That $400,000 is built into the proposed 2012-13 budget, which will be voted on by the public on Tuesday.

The district needs to address its technology infrastructure, which is about 10 years old and failing, Richards said. The infrastructure work is expected to cost about $199,000, and BOCES is helping the school system find the right vendor to do the work.

The infrastructure work includes the installation of new switches, routers and servers - "the brains of the system," Richards said.

"Basically the infrastructure takes the Internet that comes in and distributes it properly," he said. "It makes sure the system is secure.

"We run our financial software, our email and communications, our scheduling and student data systems through that infrastructure," Richards added.

The infrastructure update needs to happen first; then the district will start upgrading its hardware.

"In year one, we'd like to spend $100,000 in each building," Richards said.

That means replacing mobile labs in the elementary school and upgrading existing labs in the middle/high school.

Additionally, the district hopes to provide every classroom in the elementary school with a technology package that includes four or five iPads and a monitor. One classroom has requested laptops and a SMART Board, Richards said.

Richards said teachers use those devices to teach English language arts and numerical literacy.

"We think it's a winner because kids are wired for this technology," he said.

If the budget is approved on Tuesday, the board of education would need to adopt a formal resolution to let the district make installment purchases through BOCES for the technology overhaul. The purchases would total $100,000 per year for four years.

Richards said the district would get $36,000 back in state aid after each school year.

"All the equipment comes up front and is paid for over four years," he said.

"This is one of the best funding streams BOCES has to offer," Richards added. "BOCES serves as the bank; they serve as the agency which arranges financing, gets the loan, etc."

Richards noted there is an additional administrative charge that would be added to the $400,000. He said BOCES will let the district know about that figure soon.

The school system has a technology plan that was created in 2006 and updated in the 2009-10 school year. Richards said the district has put off upgrades due to tight budgets in recent years, and hasn't been able to reinvest in its infrastructure or its hardware.

"The elementary school has iMacs as old as current fifth-graders," Richards said. "The culprit here is the district failed to budget adequately for what it needed. You can't always delay until the next year."

A technology committee including teachers from both schools and a board member has been mapping out a multi-year technology plan for the district. The committee is headed by school board President Phil Baumbach, whom Richards said is well suited for the role because he is employed as technology consultant at the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.

"The team is working on the plan, and it includes replacement of items to allow for regular replacement of the infrastructure," Richards said.

If the public approves the budget Tuesday, and the board signs off on the installment purchases after that, Richards said the district could start building new infrastructure by early July and then begin adding hardware after that.

Richards said the technology committee will present its plan to the school board for review soon.

The Saranac Lake Central School District is also in need of a technology overhaul. In 2011, the district scrapped plans for a $2.4 million capital project that included renovations to the high school library and upgrades to the district's technology system.



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