Sierra Sands board discusses short courses, technology, trash

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

The Sierra Sands Unified School District’s Board of Education zipped through its July 18 meeting in 25 minutes flat. With no reports or presentations on the agenda, the board was able to concentrate on three issues.

First, a Grade Six Exploratory Wheel course was recommended for implementation in 2014-2015. A wheel course offers a student the choice of four nine-week classes, one each quarter, allowing the student to have an introduction to four different subjects in the place of one year-long course.

These courses are geared to help sixth graders make the transition from elementary to secondary school. The proposed offerings are Introduction to Spanish, Computers and Technology, Exploring Art, Exploring Music, Student Success and Read/Write/Think.

Student Success is about establishing good study habits, notetaking and organization. Read/ Write/Think is an introduction to critical thinking. The board approved this proposal.

Second, the board heard a recommendation on a technology purchase for Common Core implementation. According to Gavin MacGregor, director of Finance and Budget at SSUSD, the district needs to buy more computers for student use, to bring the student-to-computer ratio up to four-to-one this year, and ultimately up to one-to-one.

A study group worked out which computer model would be best for SSUSD. The criteria included Common Core testing requirements, cost, tech support and simplicity, professional development and classroom integration. The group found only one device that met all the criteria — Google Chrome Book at less than $300.

The group recommended the purchase of enough Chrome Books to bring the ratio up to four-to-one, which would cost a total of $464,262.

Then group members found that the current wireless infrastructure would need to be upgraded to handle all the additional devices, plus the increase in future. The wireless system upgrade will be a one-time expense, amounting to an estimated $145,758 for the four-to-one ratio.

Then additional upgrades and computers will be needed, to the tune of about $500,000 per year, until the one-to-one ratio is reached.

The state has approved funding for the required Common Core, but only for 2013-2014, with an estimated $900,000 coming to SSUSD. Once the infrastructure is upgraded, it will be easy to handle an increase in network traffic. The entire district will be operating on the same wireless system.

According to MacGregor, the $900,000 from the state works out to about $200 per student and is expected to be received within the next couple of months.

The third item was the trash-hauling contract. Bids were accepted, and the winning bid was submitted by Waste Management, Inc., which will charge $5,908.92 per month to haul trash and recycling from all SSUSD locations. This is lower than the current contract with Benz. It is estimated that the lower price will save the district $11,772.96 over the next school year.

The next SSSD board meeting will be on Aug. 15.

Story First Published: 2013-07-24