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Upshur Co. Board of Education looks to improve student access to technology

BUCKHANNON – Giving students more access to technology was one of the main topics discussed during the most recent Upshur County Board of Education meeting.

Members of the IT Team, including Quinten Oldaker, Miranda Skidmore, Danielle Rexroad and James Trivolette, reported to the BOE that one of the goals in Upshur County Schools has been establishing one-to-one technology for students.

“We have tried and have made many attempts to make this happen, but we have never had everyone come together,” Skidmore said at the March 10 meeting, just before schools closed due to COVID-19. “This year, I was invited on a trip to Pittsburgh with all of our directors and Dr. Tammy Samples. During the trip we visited Apple in Pittsburgh and everyone came back excited an enthused and ready to go.”

Skidmore said the team has put together a 10-year plan for Upshur County Schools to be a one-to-one district with Apple, meaning every student would have technology access.

Oldaker passed out a copy of the proposed plan to BOE members and said it listed what the school system currently has and what they are working to get, which was included in the Technology Innovation Plan for students and staff. He said they are also working closely with the superintendent and assistant superintendent to keep the Upshur County Schools website and Facebook page up to date.

“At the end of the year, our staff will come together to have professional development provided by Apple,” Oldaker said. “We will be learning from the best of the best.”

Oldaker said they are looking forward to the possibility of working with Apple to provide students with the technology they need.

Samples, the school board president, said the meeting help explain financing options.

“We always worry about being fiscally responsible,” Samples said. “The way Apple explained how they help us get started and how we can trade back in, on the third year, the trade ins pay for the fourth year completely off.”

Financial Director George Carver said he ran the numbers on the project.

“These items are $400 or $500 and not that complex,” Carver said. “When we looked at what we are already spending for computer equipment and the upkeep and repair of those, doing this will not have any increase on what we are already spending. In fact, there are opportunities two or three years out to save significant amounts of money because we are spending between $300,000 and $800,000 per year on textbooks. That cost could be reduced significantly.”

Carver said another area where there could potentially be savings is in the paper and copier contracts.

“We are spending between $100,000 and $150,000 a year for copiers and paper,” Carver said. “With this, we should be able to significantly reduce this hopefully. And there are other areas of cost savings as well, I believe.”

Carver said he was skeptical at first.

“But it is very affordable,” he said.

Also, during Tuesday’s meeting, BOE members took the following actions:

-Voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s request for approval of personnel items as presented, following a 15-minute executive session.

-Voted unanimously to approve transportation requests for field trips.

-Voted unanimously to approve the second reading of the revised policy 4011.2 for the alternative education policy for the PALS program.

-Voted unanimously to approve a calendar change making April 17, 2020 a 12:30 p.m. dismissal for a school safety act exercise.

-Received an update from Facilities Director Tim Derico about maintenance issues including those at Hodgesville Elementary School and the high school roof project.

The next Upshur County BOE meeting will be Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. This will be a modified regular session.

In a statement from the Upshur County BOE, officials said, ‘In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the public may participate in the meeting through teleconferencing.’ To tune into the meeting, folks may call 1-304-553-7794. The conference ID number is 239-741-215#.

Check back with My Buckhannon to see which bright shining Upshur Stars were recognized during the last Upshur County BOE meeting – including members of the B-UHS wrestling and swim teams.

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