Third graders with laptops and middle schoolers swapping chalkboards for Smartboards may have once seemed like a futuristic fantasy, but is now a reality in SMMUSD schools. Since 2014, the District has allocated $34,431,359 in funding to the implementation and development of technology in classrooms through Bond Measure ES, 80% of which has already been spent. 

What to do with the remaining nearly $7 million was discussed at last week’s School Board meeting. Members approved a plan proposed by District staff to re-shuffle the budget to put more money into network infrastructure, student devices and creating updated “21st century classrooms,” and less into library technology, computer labs, tech leadership and coaching positions. 

Director of Education Technology Services Bertha Roman explained that anticipated costs in the latter categories have turned out to be less than was expected when the budget was first drafted almost 10 years ago. 

“There is a decrease in funding needed for this because in the original allocation we actually had computer carts, or Chromebook carts, for every single library, so, with the implementation of one-to-one devices, that was no longer needed,” she said. 

SMMUSD now assigns students in third through eighth grades and 11th grade individual Chromebooks to use throughout the year. Roman also added that fewer education technology teachers were hired than had been initially budgeted for, leaving a surplus in that category as well. 

SMMUSD Network Engineer John Castillo told the Board that upgrading the District’s wireless network infrastructure would be a worthy use of this money for things like Chromebooks, teachers’ laptops and phones.

“We’ve become so dependent on it,” he said. 

Castillo said this will only increase going forward as more wireless access points are added throughout the District. The plan proposed at the meeting would update wireless infrastructure and expand internet access.  

Board President Maria Leon-Vasquez voiced her support for the plan.

“To be able to have the internet all over the campus — so that the high school students can go outside and do their work … so they don’t have to be confined within a building, but they can go outside and do their research all around the campus — that would be great,” she said.

The revised budget allocates a remaining $2,679,645 to infrastructure, $1,325,000 to student devices, $1,470,000 to supporting “21st century classrooms,” and a reduced $953,370 to library technology, $500,000 to computer labs and no additional money to leadership and coaching. 

Roman said it is important to keep in mind that investing in technology in schools isn’t a one-time payment and will need ongoing funding to be successful.

“We’re committing to the use of technology but then we’ll also have to commit to funding for refresh and maintenance of the technology that we’re implementing,” she said.

grace@smdp.com