The Wellesley Public School FY 14 capital budget proposal presented over the past month or so highlights a huge new planned investment in technology that entails a revamped network infrastructure, a new phone system and a whole lotta Apple stuff (including a potentially controversial program to bring iPads to all 5th graders). The roughly $1M in proposed capital expenses still needs to pass through the overall town budgeting process and will likely get shaved here and there. Keep in mind too that this tech spending doesn’t even include tech-infused security systems that are being considered in light of the Newtown tragedy and other high profile school security incidents (although presumably, the upgraded network infrastructure and phone system will all sync up with any sort of security system).
Note that the School Committee is looking to include costs ($409K) for the phone system as part of a debt exclusion/tax hike, so it is being looked at somewhat separately from the overall capital budget for schools, which also includes $290K for furniture/fixtures/equipment). The proposed operating budget, including mainly salaries, is more than $60M. The overall school budget is slated to be voted on by School Committee and presented to the Advisory Board around the end of the month. (We should note that the tech portion of the capital budget, while large, has also been so in recent years, with FY’ 13 technology capital spending budgeted at $553K vs. FY 14 proposed spending of $590K, not including the phone system.)
As for computing systems, Wellesley has clearly bought into what Apple is selling, asking to spend close to $400K on Apple desktops, laptops (replacements and new make up most of this tab) and iPad tablets. The plan calls for spending nearly 40 times more on Apple than Microsoft products from what we can figure (maybe the name of Bill Gates should be replaced with Steve Jobs on the WHS library’s wall of names?). Parents will also be asked to foot most of the bill for the tablets, which Wellesley started using at Schofield Elementary School under a pilot program and now plans to phase in across the other elementary schools and Wellesley Middle School (there are iPads here and there across the school system already via various grants, etc.). Up next will be 5th grade classes across the district for the start of the next school year.
Parents are invited to learn more about the tablet program at a meeting at Wellesley Free Library on Jan. 10 at 7pm. Individual schools are also holding meetings. More info on the program here:
The plan is for families that own iPads to pay $40 a year to support those devices or to pay $155 annually for 4 years to lease a device with an option to buy for $1 at the end of that period (the 16GB iPad 4 costs $500 on the open market, by the way). Nearby communities, including Hopkinton and Natick, offer similar programs, though costs vary widely. The Wellesley school system emphasizes that those who can’t afford to buy or lease iPads will be supplied with them, though the overall program is bound to raise questions about zinging taxpaying public school families with another fee (sports, bus, activities, etc.)