The Lamoille North school district is spending nearly $200,000 to make sure every kid has his or her own computer device for the coming school year.
The school board Aug. 18 approved the purchase of an assortment of iPads, tablets, Chromebooks and other devices, along with support items, totaling $192,458.
The purchase completes plans to put a “personal learning device” in the hands of every student across Lamoille North, which includes public schools in Belvidere, Cambridge, Eden, Hyde Park, Johnson and Waterville. School officials hope the move cuts down on the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak because students won’t be sharing devices.
“Each student can have a dedicated device in order to avoid sharing,” Lamoille North Business Manager Deb Clark said. Those devices can be used during remote learning but also in school, and hopefully cut down on the potential spread of COVID-19.
“It’s not necessarily so kids can take them all home,” Clark said. “They may be able to take them home on their remote days, but it’s mostly so they’re not sharing,” while in the same buildings.
Plans to put a portable computer into the hands of each student in the district were in the works before the pandemic, but remote learning last spring, coupled with plans for a hybrid model this fall where kids will switch off being in school and being at home, accelerated the process.
The money is being drawn from a few different emergency relief funds, Clark said. The money will come from elementary and secondary school emergency relief accounts, coronavirus relief funds and school improvement grants.
The district still had roughly $500,000 in emergency relief funding available before approving the purchase of new learning devices last week.
The Lamoille North board approved a contract to purchase heating fuel and propane from Fred’s Energy and greenlit the purchase of new lockers for Eden Central School.
• Lamoille North received bids from Fred’s Energy and Bourne’s Energy for heating fuel oil and propane for all school buildings in the coming year. Ultimately, the board picked Fred’s Energy, despite the fact that it initially offered a higher price per gallon for fuel oil.
Fred’s has served as the district’s vendor for both fuel oil and propane for years, facilities manager Dylan Laflam told the board last week. Switching to Bourne’s would incur additional expenses as new tanks and infrastructure would have to be installed, which would also bring visitors to campus at a time when schools are trying to restrict the number of strangers entering its buildings and grounds.
The savings were also minimal; Bourne’s quoted a price of $1.74 per gallon for fuel oil totaled $78,183; Fred’s total price quoted was $85,538. For propane, Fred’s was actually the low bidder at $1.18 per gallon for a total of $38,436; Bourne’s total quote for propane was $38,860.
“The net difference was $6,931,” Clark said, and that cost still didn’t include the extra expense of switching to Bourne’s.
• The board selected the quote of Barre-based Lajuenesse Interiors to install 120 new lockers at Eden Central School. Lajuenesse’s quote of $11,650 was slightly more than A+ Athletics of Maine, which bid $10,200, but less than the bid of MHS Sales of New Hampshire, which bid $13,512.
The money used to cover the cost will come from Eden’s special capital fund, which had $197,000 before the purchase. According to meeting minutes the school board went with Lajuenesse partly because it is a Vermont company that included a guarantee that they would use lockers made in the United States.