HCCSC board narrowly approves new teacher computers

Despite a divided vote by members of the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees, teachers will soon get new laptop computers with plenty of extra storage space.

At its regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, the board voted 4-3 to authorize the purchase of 400 MacBook Air 13-inch computers with 512 gigabytes of flash drive space.

In addition, the corporation will buy 400 32-gigabyte Apple TVs, 100 extra power adaptors and six months of Apple Professional Development.

The cost, spread out over four years, will amount to $625,304. Board members Reed Christiansen, Brian Warpup and Kevin Yarger voted against the measure.

The controversy was in the amount of storage space allowed for the computers. Purchasing the MacBooks with only a 256-gigabyte flash drive would have saved the corporation about $74,000, said Jon Bennett, assistant superintendent for business and classified staff.

But with the expected lifespan of the computers to be seven years, Bennett said a big issue would be the hard drive filling up, creating an operating problem that could affect everything from software to retrieving emails.

Christiansen pointed out that the speed of 1.6 gigahertz and the 8 gigabytes of RAM were the same on both computer options.

“The life span is going to come from the processor and the RAM,” Christiansen said. “The only time the hard drive is going to reduce the life of it is if it’s maxed out.

“Even our super-users, it’s going to take them a few years to get there … I know we’re not talking about a huge difference, but based on the volume that we’re looking at purchasing, both options will give them what they (teachers) need.”

“Do we think teachers will be able to get by? Yes,” countered Bennett. “The thought would be, they would spend less time managing that movement of files back and forth between cloud storage and their own device …

“We think there are going to be greater demands for software and storage as we move on to 4K video, 5K video and more complex projects that students would be doing. We’re always trying to look out. It’s a crystal ball- type projection.”

Warpup questioned spending $74,000 to double the hard-drive space.

“My big thing is, if we would have passed this last year, we would all be screaming next year, because we would have gotten a 128 gig flash drive,” he said. “It’s really difficult for me to get off that proposal that was proposed last year …  It’s almost that trust issue is, that we went so far low last year and now I feel like we’re going so high this year. So why not go in the middle?”

Board President Matt Roth said he didn’t want to be back in a couple of years on the same discussion because the hard drive space was running out on the new computers, and a motion to purchase the 256 gigabyte computers passed.

Bennett said the corporation will keep up to 200 of the old teacher MacBooks to use as loaners for students should theirs need repair. The remainder will be sold or otherwise disposed of.

On another issue, policies involving iPads and MacBooks were tabled until the next board meeting on March 20.

In other business:

• The board unanimously approved on second reading the new policy regarding physical restraint and procedures for students.

• A memorandum of understanding between HCCSC and the Bowen Center was unanimously approved for a pro-rated amount for the student assistance program.

• The board heard updates from the Huntington County Community Learning Center. Director Tiffanney Drummond said while the school enrollment has decreased, the enrollment of the HNHS career and technical education program has increased 53 percent since 2011.

• The board also heard a report about the Huntington North High School ABLE (Achieving Balance in Life through Education) program, which partners with Huntington University to allow special education students to enroll in and attend college classes as they transition to independent life.

• Superintendent Randy Harris reiterated that because of the corporation’s spring break schedule, the next regular meeting of the school board will be March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Horace Mann Education Center.