Voters will be asked to approve two proposals – a $28.28 million bond and a five-year, 0.75-mill sinking fund – on the November ballot, both of which would be used to fund a variety of capital improvement projects throughout the Oxford school district.
Should the proposals be approved, officials are looking to invest a total of $30.4 million into transportation, building systems, site improvements, roofing, technology infrastructure, security cameras/access and playgrounds throughout the district.
The Oxford Leader
will take an in-depth look at the projects which have been proposed within each of these categories by district officials. In this issue, the Leader will explore Oxford Schools’ proposed updates to technology.
Officials are hoping to spend up to $1.45 million on technology-related improvements.
Of that total, $1.35 million would be spent on instructional devices for staff and students across the district using proceeds from the proposed sinking fund. They are also looking to spend up to $100,000 on the improvement of the district’s technology infrastructure using bond proceeds, which would include server updates, along with additional wiring and fire optics.
According to Superintendent Tim Throne, the district’s last major purchase of learning devices districtwide were purchased using proceeds from a 2009 bond which was approved.
Since then, Throne stated, many of the devices have become outdated and some are no longer compatible with current operating systems and programs.
Some of the top technology priorities for officials would include the replacement of desktop computers for teachers/staff and outdated computers within the schools’ student labs. They are also looking to purchase new portable devices for schools throughout the district.
Officials are looking to replace desktop personal computers for all teachers, staff and administration. To do this, Throne estimates the district would need to purchase at least 400 desktops. The average age of existing teacher, staff, and administrative desktops is estimated by Throne to be nearly seven years old.
In the 2016-17 school year, the district spent over $120,000 on the purchase of over 300 Samsung Chromebooks to be used on portable carts at Oxford High School and Oxford Middle School.
According to Throne, the district is hoping to purchase more of these carts, which typically hold between 15 and 30 devices. District officials are hoping to purchase at least one cart per grade level.
These carts can include devices ranging from laptops, netbooks, Chromebooks and tablets, based on curriculum needs, and are shared between each school’s teachers and departments.
Officials would focus on increasing the number of these devices available specifically at the secondary levels (grades 6-12), although the K-5 levels would also receive some devices, said Throne. Adding more of these carts would give teachers and students more flexibility in their ability to access technology within classrooms throughout the district, he added.
Another priority for officials would lie in replacing some of the district’s oldest desktop computers and devices currently found in the district’s approximately 30 “traditional” labs.
The traditional labs are used by students for a variety of reasons, such as for state-mandated testing and during technology-based courses, such as photography and computer programming.
These instructional technology devices would be purchased exclusively through sinking fund proceeds, rather than from the proposed bond, according to Throne.
“Traditionally in the past, Oxford has utilized bond money to purchase technology. That’s the only way that we’ve been able to get those kinds of dollars to purchase large quantities of technology. The downfall with (using) bond money is that you start to pay interest dollars on it right away. The average life of technology today is around three to four (years). We consistently, since (the year) 2000, have averaged around seven to eight years with our technology,” said Throne. “We really try to get the biggest bang for our buck and the biggest return on that investment. But, optimally, we don’t want to take money that we’re paying interest on to buy (instructional devices) because (they) have such a short lifespan. To me, (the sinking fund) is a more appropriate financial vehicle to use.”
An exact number of devices which could be purchased, should the proposals be approved, have not yet been determined.
“The number of devices we could purchase overall (would be) based on (whether) the bond and sinking fund both passed. We’ll look to see how much devices cost at that time, what kind of pricing we can get and where are our teachers in regards to being ready to incorporate the technology in their everyday lessons. All of those factors together would then determine the number and kinds of devices we can actually afford, but this is our plan,” said Throne.
The addition of more portable carts, in conjunction with the replacement of outdated computers in student labs throughout the district, would help the schools administer state-mandated testing more efficiently, according to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Ken Weaver.
He estimates the district has a student to device ratio of 5-to-1 currently, which puts devices in “constant demand” and can cause difficulty for teachers at the high school and middle school levels when they schedule student assessment tests.
“All of our testing is done online. There’s a big difference between those paper and pencil tests and (our current) online tests,” said Weaver. “We have to be able to give those question formats to our kids so that they (will understand) how to take that test better as well too. Pretty much everybody’s job is done through technology in one aspect or another today, so why wouldn’t we teach that way?”
Throne added the replacement and addition of devices throughout the district will better prepare students to thrive in our technology-focused society.
“We’re trying to prepare our students for their future and technology will exist in their future. We want them to know how to use technology and being able to utilize it effectively and we want to maximize how effective we are in that teaching-learning process. We believe that technology greatly enhances that process and we want to incorporate that into our daily practice,” said Throne.