BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education met in a special called meeting Wednesday, May 30, to approve the purchase of 750 Chromebooks to be used by students in the school system in grades eight through 12.
Heather Finley, director of instructional technology, explained the HP G6 Education Edition Chromebooks would be purchased from SHI for a total of $159,525. The purchase will be mostly reimbursed by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement with funds received through a Connections for Classroom grant. The grant, which is for $146,550, will cover the price ($146,337.60) for 688 of the 750 Chromebooks. The remaining 62 Chromebooks will cost $13,187.40 and this purchase will be made with funds from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
The devices, according to information presented by Finley, feature four gigabytes of RAM (random access memory), high definition graphics, and WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.
“We are very excited,” Finley said of the purchase. “I feel like I’ve been working all year for this.”
The bid from SHI was the lowest among eight sealed bids, and the purchase of the Chromebooks adds to the 500 the school system already has in use.
“(This purchase) is going to complete the mission of putting a Chromebook in every child’s hands (grade) eight through 12,” Fannin County School Superintendent Michael Gwatney said.
According to Finley, when the Chromebooks are distributed to students in August at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, students will be allowed to take the devices home to use.
After Board member Steve Stanley asked if the devices would function for students who do not have Internet access at home, Finley explained homework assignments could be easily downloaded before leaving school or another WiFi hotspot and completed without the use of Internet.
Stanley also inquired about the possibility of outfitting more school buses with WiFi. Currently, according to Finley, seven buses have WiFi technology. “I think it’s more important to try to expand it to get it on all of our buses because as you know, many of our kids that live out in Suches – being able to, on an hour bus ride, to get your homework done on the way home, that’s a huge benefit,” Finley stated.
After further discussion, the board unanimously approved the purchase of the Chromebooks. Board members Chad Galloway and Terry Bramlett were absent from the meeting.
In addition, the board also approved a purchase for content filtering software from STRYKE Security, Inc. in the amount of $16,320.00. As Finley explained, this purchase, when combined with a previous purchase from the same company for content filtering devices totals $36,784.04. Finley also noted the previous purchase utilized SPLOST funds while the current purchase would draw from local funds. The new filtering devices and software will replace the current content filter, which is unable to handle planned Internet speed upgrades and increased devices on the school’s network.
“Even if (the students are) on their own WiFi at home, this new content filter can let us know and even block things that they’re doing at home that they shouldn’t be doing. Everything gets rerouted back through our servers here at the tech hub,” Finley said.
The board also approved this purchase unanimously.