Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board may bring Routt County schools together in more ways than initially thought when voters agreed in November to share Steamboat's half-cent sales tax revenue.
Through meetings with the Fund Board's Technology Commission, administrators and technology directors for the three Routt County school districts have come up with several plans for how to save money, combine resources and ultimately increase the capabilities of technology in the three districts.
In a first reading of technology packages for the three school districts Wednesday night, the Fund Board heard reports about how discussions with the commission and a total of about $1.13 million in requests can help the three districts align their technology plans.
Mark Andersen, a member of the Technology Commission that brought the three sets of requests forward, said the commission wrestled with how the technology will be used in five years.
"We put a lot of thought process into not just each individual district's request, but how will they work together for a singular educational philosophy," he said before the presentations were made.
Some of the potential areas of collaboration will be made possible if the district is able to use a high-speed cable between Steamboat Springs and Hayden.
Tim Miles, technology director for the Steamboat Springs School District, explained how, during the past two years, he has created a district-wide system to use low-end, secondhand computers to run all the programs the district needs through a central server. Storing the programs in one location and a special software system called Citrix have allowed the computers to run programs that otherwise would be too processor-intensive.
Miles said he has been in talks with a telecommunications company in Steamboat to allow the district to use a high-speed cable to Hayden to connect that district to the system, as well.
The changes have provided a number of benefits to the Steamboat district, Miles said. The software can be updated faster, the workload for technology staff will eventually decrease, and students are able to remotely access their programs and files from any computer with an Internet connection. But the biggest cost-saver was the hardware. By not having to replace aging desktop computers as often, Miles said the district will save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To conclude the three-year project, Miles requested $980,000 from the Fund Board. That amount will not include any major projects because the investments already have been made, Miles said.
Troy Zabel, principal of Hayden High School, said the conversations with the Technology Commission and Miles also have helped the Hayden School District create a technology plan.
"It will open more and more doors for us," Zabel said. "We have had great conversations. It was beneficial to us as our (district) technology committee meets and moves forward."
Zabel presented a request totaling $73,329. Of that, about $50,000 will go to an assistant to the technology director to help get the Hayden district up and running with computer hardware and software it already owns.
The remainder will go toward creating a subnet system to increase Internet speed and upgrading software licenses.
Scott Mader, superintendent of the South Routt School District, also said the technology discussions have been helpful. He was optimistic about the potential for long-term cooperation.
"We're taking the attitude of 'go slow to go fast,'" he said "We're looking at a long-term relationship with the other two districts and the Fund Board."
South Routt's proposal, totaling about $75,000, includes money for new servers, computers and software systems.
South Routt Technology Coordinator Shane Antyr said the computers in South Routt are beyond their useful lifespan and are not reliable.
"We're operating day to day with the fear that the file server is going to go down catastrophically and teachers will lose everything. And I'll lose my job," Antyr joked with the Fund Board.
The Fund Board asked questions during the first reading of the technology requests. The Technology Commission will review the requests again before bringing them back to the Fund Board for a second reading, when an official vote will be taken.
Also Wednesday, the Fund Board approved two requests from the Capital Commission. A $30,000 request for furniture and window coverings for Steamboat Springs Middle School was approved, as was a $30,000 request for a School Safety and Security Task Force Manager, who will help the three Routt County districts coordinate school security plans.