School Board to discuss Apple program | SteamboatToday.com

School Board to discuss Apple program

South Routt budget cut discussion also on agenda for special meeting today

Jack Weinstein

— An anonymous donor has offered to fund the first year of a proposed plan to buy Apple MacBook laptop computers for every Soroco High School freshman.

South Routt School Board President Tim Corrigan, who pitched the idea in December, said the Yampa Valley Community Foundation told him about the donor's willingness to anonymously provide $7,500 to get the program up and running.

Board members will discuss the program at 6 p.m. today during a special meeting at the South Routt School District's administrative offices in Oak Creek.

"Certainly having some funding available puts the institution of this program in a different light," Corrigan said. "I think it's safe to say we would not attempt to fund that program on our own given the current budget crisis. But we have to be responsible enough to understand that we would be committed to funding it in the future."

The district has projected it will have to cut more than $472,000 from the 2010-11 school year budget. The district has estimated losing 7.75 percent of its funding from the state.

School Board members last week began discussing how and where to cut from the district's more than $5 million general fund. That discussion will continue at 6 p.m. today.

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Corrigan first discussed buying Apple MacBooks with School Board members after hearing about the program during the Colorado Association of School Boards meeting in early December.

He said the Apple program began last year at Valley High School in the Weld County School District RE-1. The program allows districts to lease the computers by paying one-quarter of the cost each year. Soroco High School has about 30 freshmen each year. In the first year, the program would cost $7,500. The program would cost an additional $7,500 each year the district participates, capping at the end of the fourth year, when the program would cost about $30,000 annually as each grade's students would have their own laptops.

"It's up by the school district now to absorb the future funding for years to come if we could get started this year," Corrigan said. "We need to iron out the real dollar numbers instead of the rounded numbers we've been working with, especially when it comes to upgrading the infrastructure at the high school to accommodate that many new computers."

Corrigan said infrastructure upgrades would include installing wireless Internet routers throughout the high school.

Superintendent Scott Mader said the district would accept the donation for the first year of the Apple program. But he said there's still some work the district has to do before instituting the program. Mader said he spoke with the superintendent of the Pueblo County School District 70, which instituted a similar program, to see how it has worked there.

"We want to evaluate it first, but we're definitely going to pursue that or something like that as a long-term goal," he said.

Mader said the district would need to figure out how to fund the program in future years, whether through grant funding or other sources.

The School Board is scheduled to enter executive session tonight, before it discusses the Apple program and potential budget cuts. Mader said board members will meet with a consultant, contracted for that day, to talk about personnel matters related to the superintendent and school administrators.

About 20 South Routt Elementary School parents and teachers attended the Jan. 26 School Board meeting. Three were allowed to speak in support of Principal Michael Young, who told his staff he would be looking for a new job. The parents and teachers, three of whom addressed the board, were concerned about "philosophical differences" between Mader and Young.

Those who spoke implored the board to keep Young and find a new superintendent. The board discussed the situation in an executive session at that meeting and took no action afterward.

Corrigan said then that the district would not fire Mader and called the allegations against him "without basis."

If you go

What: South Routt School Board

special meeting

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: District administrative offices, 305 S. Grant St. in Oak Creek