School board unanimously approves three-year technology plan at meeting

The Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees unanimously approved a three-year technology plan at its regular meeting Monday, April 9, that will position the district as the most advanced in the northeast Indiana quadrant, officials say.

HCCSC’s Director of Technology Tom Ashley outlined the plan, which focuses on meeting five goals and priorities: supporting 21st century instruction; improving and updating the technology; safety and security; technical support; and administration/instructional leadership support.

One of the most significant highlights of the plan is the upgrading of the district’s Internet connection from 1.5 gigabytes per second to 5 gigabytes per second and upgrading existing wireless and fiber optic connections using 802.-11.AC (wave 2) and 10 gigabytes per second fiber.

“We are actually well on the way; we will implement that July 1. That gets Huntington County schools basically compliant with the national goals and recommendations at a national level,” Ashley said. “We’re getting that 5 gigabytes per second by partnering with MetroNet, at a lower cost than we’re paying for the 1.5.”

The upgrade in Internet speed will put HCCSC in a more advanced position compared to other districts, such as Fort Wayne schools, Ashley added.

He said the vision of the plan, the product of a 14-member revision committee, focuses on supporting teachers and students to effectively use technology to enhance instruction, not just on how to use the technology itself.

“It’s not ever about the technology; it’s about what we can do to support the teachers and students,” Ashley told the board. “There are a lot of great things happening out in the schools relating to STEM and STEAM and robotics and Project Lead the Way and Maker Spaces. We just want to be there to support that process and provide the tools and support that they need to continue those programs to grow.”

The 18-page plan outlines a budget over the next three years of $890,000 in hardware costs, $1.16 million in software costs and $50,000 in technology training. The board has budgeted around $1.4 million from its capital projects fund each year to support the district’s technology infrastructure, although additional funding may be sought through grants, low- interest loans and donations.

Ashley also said the goal of safety and security has increased in priority in the past few months with current events, prompting the district to improve its ability to protect students, faculty and staff from cyber attacks, natural and other disasters.

The plan includes having all camera systems accessible from the web as well as providing access to law enforcement in the case of an emergency. The district will also have the ability to quickly ramp up its critical systems to a cloud to operate the school district. A process will also be created to enable communications bases to be remotely established in case of an emergency as well as set up the ability to locate the source of 911 calls inside the district and communicate the information to law enforcement.

“I think it’s time; I think everyone agrees it’s a high priority and we need to make sure that funding is consistent and significant,” Ashley added.

In other business, the board took unanimous votes on each item brought before it. Action items included:

• Adopting a resolution to authorize the execution of a lease and sale of real estate. During a public hearing on the item no one addressed the board. Superintendent Randy Harris said the corporation is funding the process through a “lease financing” arrangement, used by school corporations across the state to borrow to renovate or embark on new construction.

“The building corporation will purchase the real estate for the new (Roanoke) elementary school and a portion of Huntington North High School at the closing for at least the appraised value,” Harris explained. “The building corporation will then lease that real estate back to the school corporation. The lease rental due from the school corporation will be paid from property taxes and will be for the lease of the facilities during the term of the lease.”

• Adopted a resolution appropriating the proceeds and establishing a construction fund until the elementary school building project is complete.

• Adopted a resolution assigning construction bids for the new Roanoke elementary school and a portion of Huntington North High School, once the funds are received.

• Adopted a resolution approving master continuing disclosure undertaking, as required by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Harris said the school corporation agrees to provide timely financial information to the SEC’s EMMA database.

• Approved the award of middle school track bids to E&B Paving, which submitted the lowest base bid of $143,820, plus an alternate package, which include putting down paving fabric at both Crestview and Riverview outdoor tracks, adding $16,844 to the cost. Harris noted the bid came in under what the school corporation estimated the cost would be. E&B Paving will begin work after track season, close to July 20.

• Approved the purchase of new auditorium seats for the high school from Irwin Seating Co. The new seats will have red fabric and a gray base and back, at a cost of slightly over $153,000.

• Approved a new beverage contract with Coca-Cola Bottling. Harris said the new agreement has no minimum requirements as the previous contract had, but is set for a five-year time period.

• Added a Math 10, two-semester course to the summer school schedule. The course was not in the corporation’s original summer school proposal because it was not on the state agenda at the time.