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Albion is yet to spend any of $2.2 million approved for ‘Smart Schools’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 September 2019 at 11:20 am

District will bring in technology specialist to consider some options

ALBION – The school district will bring in a technology specialist to help pinpoint projects that would be funded through the $2.2 million approved for Albion five years ago through the Smart Schools Bond Act, a $2 billion fund approved for school districts state-wide.

Other districts in Orleans County have used Smart Schools funding for laptops for students, server upgrades, high-definition security cameras, expanded wireless internet access and other improvements.

Albion already had an upgraded computer system, well beyond the expectations for a school district when the Smarts Schools funding was approved, said Michael Bonnewell, the district superintendent.

The district has expanded wireless access on campus, and in July purchased 540 new Chromebook laptops for students. The district spent $119,700 for the Chromebooks, which also includes 18 charging carts.

Instead of using the Smart Schools funding, Albion used its own district dollars.

Bonnewell said the Smarts Schools funds often comes with a year delay from when districts apply to draw down on their allocation. If a new version of technology comes out or a updated laptop, districts then have to modify their technology plan submitted to the state to access the funds.

The district in 2017 formed a technology committee with teachers and administrators to try to prioritize how to spend the Smart School money. That group hasn’t reached a conclusion because Albion already meets many state objectives with the funds.

Other criteria for the money aren’t applicable at Albion, such as replacing a temporary classroom with a permanent one. Albion replaced temporary classrooms in the elementary school with a capital project more than a decade ago.

The state also allows Smarts Schools funding to boost community connectivity, and some schools have done that to add high-speed internet at a local library. In Albion, Hoag Library already has high-speed internet.

The district has brought in Archi-Technology Services which works with many school districts at utilizing technology. Bonnewell said Archi-Technology will meet with school officials and technology committee to consider some options for the funding.

Linda Weller, a Board of Education member, urged the district to identify projects with the funds.

“This district is techno-phobic,” she said at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

“The district is not techno-phobic,” Bonnewell responded.

Elissa Nesbitt, another board member, wants to see Albion utilize the Smarts Schools funding.

“This is a really big opportunity,” she said. “We need to think big. This could be a systemic change.”

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