By Matthew Reitz
Fulton school officials are finalizing their plan to begin investing the $4 million the district is set to receive through the state’s Smart Schools Bond Act.
In January 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the state to invest $2 billion in its schools through the Smart Schools Bond Act to improve facilities and help students graduate with the necessary skills they need to secure jobs today’s economy. New York voters approved the act through a statewide referendum in November 2014.
As part of the Smart Schools Bond Act, FCSD was awarded $3.97 million, which can be used to improve the district’s technology infrastructure, purchase devices for instruction and make facilities upgrades.
FCSD Director of Technology Stephanie Maturo said there are specific things the funding can be used for, such as wiring, switch equipment, devices for instructional technology, wireless access technologies and firewalling equipment.
The plan has been posted on the district’s website for the public to view for over 30 days, and the district held a public hearing before a recent board meeting, which did not provide any additional input.
The first phase of the investment plan includes the addition of wireless access points at buildings throughout the district, student laptops and tablet devices, carts for the devices, the replacement of nearly 200 personal computers that are over five years old and a new core switch.
“It replaces our core switch, which is really the brains of our network,” Maturo said. “All of the buildings connect into this device at the high school, and then from there we go out to the public Internet. We call it the core switch because it really is at the core of the network.”
The plan will also bring devices to the public library for children and adults, Lynch said, because “there’s a theme that this should have a community component to it.”
Lynch said there is “no limit at this point in time as to when the money has to be spent,” and the district will look to use the money to make improvements to infrastructure and instructional technology as needed.
The estimated cost for the first phase is about $595,000, and would leave a little less than $3.4 million for future investment. Nearly 60 percent of the funds from the first phase will go toward devices for classroom use, which includes $210,000 for student laptops, $130,000 for personal computer replacements and $45,000 for tablet devices.
The preliminary plan called for about $560,000 in spending, but recently added switch modules, batteries and a Laser Pro Engraving Printer raised costs to about $595,000, according to Maturo. The switch modules will provide “back end support” for wireless access and the batteries would allow the district to remain “up and running” in the event of a power outage.
Maturo and Lynch said they would like to have a resolution to approve the plan at the Dec. 12 meeting, which would then be submitted to a state review panel for final authorization before the district can begin purchasing and implementing the technology.
“What we’re hoping is that, if the state is fairly quick in their approval process, we’ll be able to start implementing this equipment in late spring and over the summer months,” Maturo said. “That’s our goal.”
Lynch said a second phase is already being discussed, in which the district will need to do some wiring to “enhance the wireless density” in the buildings.
The second phase is packaged as a separate plan because anything considered infrastructure has to be approved by architects and engineers, according to Lynch. That will be a slower process, so it has been separated from the user devices, he said.
“We’re trying to chunk these out to very manageable units,” Lynch said.
A preliminary plan for the second phase is likely to be unveiled at the January board meeting, according to Lynch.