Shawnee schools to utilize funds for technology, distance learning plan

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star

After the Shawnee Board of Education approved a $1.1 million technology lease purchase agreement Monday and the State Board of Education awarded the district a $300,000 Incentive Grant Wednesday, Shawnee Public Schools will use various funds to purchase more technology for students and extend distance learning plans.

According to SPS Superintendent Dr. April Grace, the education board approved a technology lease purchase agreement between SPS and First United Bank in the amount of $1,190,168.50 Monday, June 29.

"The lease was to purchase the technology necessary to move to (one-to-one) and upgrade teacher equipment, such as laptops for use with the digital learning platforms," Grace said. "This will allow for each student to have a device for use at school and home, as needed."

The district, Grace said, will use the funds to purchase 770 new iPads for Pre-K through second grade, 800 Lenovo Chromebooks for third through eighth grade, MacBook Airs for teachers and iMacs for office staff.

In addition to the $1.1 million lease agreement, Grace said SPS was awarded a $300,00 Incentive Grant Wednesday, July 1, and the district plans to use the grant to help make payments on the lease agreement.

"Our grant application was specifically for assistance with connectivity and devices," Grace said. "So, this grant helps us pay more down on the lease purchase approved by the board to decrease the annual payments."

Grace said these funds are being utilized to insure students have options to continue distance learning during the 2020-2021 school year.

"Our digital learning plan is twofold: We have a full-time virtual option for students and parents that feel that is the best option for them and their family, at this time," Grace said. "We will have digital learning days on site to acclimate both students and staff to devices and platforms, while capturing some days we were scheduled to be out as digital learning days for students."

The educator said this plan will allow the district a chance to take advantage of digital learning days, if necessary, for weather or any outbreaks related to the pandemic or other situations.

While SPS has a digital plan for students, Grace said the district's leaders are still developing the overall plan for students to return to school in August.

"We are continuing to work through details, nuances and plans. We will release more information as we get further into July, as we continue to observe patterns with the virus," Grace said. "Our goal is the same as most school districts across the state, to begin school in as normal of a way as possible for students and families."

Grace said the district will continue to observe the effects of COVID-19 and decide the best course of action to ensure students can continue their education.