The Lufkin ISD Board of Trustees met in a Special Called meeting this morning via Zoom to approve a Memorandum of Understanding with Region 4 related to Operation Connectivity. The agreement is to provide funds for technology needs for virtual education.
Superintendent Lynn Torres said, “It is a one-time opportunity for schools to get what they need and be ready to address what may come our way during this school year.”
To determine the needs of the district several surveys were conducted asking parents about connectivity and devices. The needs were also assessed when the Lufkin Virtual Learning Academy went live for parents to sign up their child for virtual learning.
The Special Called meeting was necessary because of the urgency to approve the agreement with Region 4, which is handling the project for the entire state, and start ordering the equipment for virtual learning.
Mrs. Torres said, “We just received the Interlocal Acquisition Agreement for this technology purchase on Thursday afternoon, July 30. We need to approve the Agreement and the amount for the computer purchase through the state. This is for devices and hotspots. This is a great opportunity to get us to a one to one device ratio with help from the state, and prepares us in case we are 100% virtual at any time during the school year. From survey time to order time, this program has moved quickly with the initial survey submission date of July 19, Interlocal Agreement received July 30, Interlocal Agreement due Aug. 4, confirmation Aug. 7, and invoice from Region 4 Aug 11.”
Deputy Superintendent, Kurt Stephens explained to the board that this is a dollar for dollar match.
He said, “We will purchase 1,000 hotspots from AT&T and 500 from Verizon that will give us better coverage and a little bit of a choice if one covers better than the other. We will own the devices. We have increased our WIFI in parking lots but asking students to drive to parking lots for virtual learning is not reasonable. These hotspots will cover three to five devices so a family that has two to three kids, this hotspot can cover the whole household.”
The Agreement approves the district to purchase up to:
■ 3,125 hotspots
- AT&T $240 each/year
- Verizon $209 each/year
■ 900 Laptops
■ 500 Chromebooks
■ 600 iPads
○ Estimated total cost of devices is $581,100 (District cost = $290,550)
○ Planning to purchase 1,500 hotspots (1,000-AT&T/500-Verizon) at an estimated total cost of $344,500 (District cost = $172,250)
The proposal also included an additional $131,000 for the classroom supplies for students to help with back to school expenses.
CFO Charlotte Bynum said, “We are to receive $1,900,000 in ESSER CARES Act Funding. While the state is replacing our state revenue with the CARES Act Funding, the excess we have in our budget is the same. The state revenue to be received is the same, it is just that $1,900,000 will be coming from a federal fund source instead of state revenue source.”
She said, “As we stand now, we are looking to receive $561,560 in FEMA reimbursements and $588,027 in Corona Relief Funding. This will free up $1,149,587 in expenditures that we are currently showing in the general fund budget and replace what we are proposing to spend for school supplies and Operation Connectivity. It is my hope that we will receive this funding before Aug. 31, and I can reclass expenses to these grants. Any excess Revenue over Expenditures will be added to the Fund Balance on Aug. 31.”
Board Vice President Don Muhlbach said, “This moves us to going virtual. It moves us in that direction in a big way.”
He then made a motion to approve seconded by Board Secretary Allyson Langston.
Mrs. Torres informed the board that the district is partnering with PMH Laboratory Inc to provide COVID 19 and/or antigen testing for staff and their families on Aug. 10th. The district will also receive testing kits to perform on demand testing throughout the year conducted by the district registered nurses.