The Gainesville City School Board unanimously approved the purchase of thousands of Chromebooks for their students at their meeting Monday night.
The board approved spending money from the recent Corona Aid Relief and Economic Securities, or CARES, Act to purchase 4,000 Chromebooks from Sherlock Tech, for a total of about $1,146,000.
"That money is available to use for a number of purposes, including being able to support remote learning, covering the cost of devices and remote technology," said Chief Technology Officer Jill Hobson. "During our experience this spring, with students working from home, we've become very clear on the level of need of students to have a device."
What will happen in the fall remains unclear, but Hobson said students will be in a better position to learn if they have access to devices like the Chromebooks. Hobson confirmed the over $1,000,000 price tag was the lowest bid for the selection.
Currently, the school system has 6,000 Chromebooks and about 1,000 or less iPads, according to Hobson.
"We knew going into COVID, and just the closure, that we would find gaps and holes," said Superintendent Jeremy Williams. "While many of our families kind of did a great job putting band-aids on things, we felt like there was still a large need to ensure that every kid, especially six through 12 has a device, not just for the short term but for the long term."
Council member Sammy Smith asked about the retrieval rate for the devices that had already been loaned out. Hobson and Williams assured the board that not only did students sign a contract of sorts when they checked out devices, but that they also had planned to started with older devices or ones that had gotten more use, so it would be less money lost if they did not return.
Additionally, Hobson explained they had also purchased 100 wi-fi hotspots and distributed those based on need to their students, allowing them to actually use their devices at home.
The board unanimously approved the quote for $1,146,000 of CARES Act money to go towards new Chromebooks for students. According to Williams, that's only about half of the money they received from the act.
Also at the meeting, early voting was discussed, partially due to the fact that Gainesville Exploration Academy is the current site for Hall County voting. However, Smith also brought up a flyer distributed to families when school lunch delivery was completed from the Georgia Mountain Food Bank. He simply asked his fellow board members to keep the needs of their students in mind as they prepared to create a new budget and milage rate.
Though, that might take place later than usual. The board approved a resolution allowing the budget to be adopted in late July, giving the board an extra month due to the pandemic.
The meeting was held virtually, via Zoom.