Chromebooks, other budget talks continue at District 427 board meeting

February 27, 2019

SYCAMORE – The prospect of buying Chromebooks for students to use aren’t completely off the table just yet starting next school year for Sycamore School District 427.

Sycamore School District 427 board members discussed the prospect of having students either in sixth through 12th grades, eighth through 12th grades, all high school and only for math classes – in additional to other fiscal 2020 proposed budget items, such as adding more school staff members and buying two new maintenance trucks, a dump truck and a new lawn mower – at their meeting Tuesday night at Sycamore Middle School.

Nicole Stuckert, chief financial officer for District 427, said the district is looking at an overall $460,000 surplus between fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020 without the proposed Chromebooks.

She said the board would be looking at a budget deficit for the sixth- through-12th-grade and eighth-through-12th-grade options but would see a budget surplus of about $40,000 for each high school student to have a Chromebook and a surplus of $170,000 for 900 students that would be taking Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry classes to have the devices, since that new curriculum will be all online.

Kris Webster, director of curriculum for District 427, said if the district doesn’t approve students having Chromebooks at least for math, the district would not be able to approve the proposed budget for instructional resources for next year and thus wouldn’t meet curriculum standards.

Stuckert said the proposed $25 technology fee for students was an arbitrary number that was brought up at the Feb. 12 school board meeting. She said district officials also looked at how other schools’ technology fees looked like within DeKalb County and the Fox Valley region.

Several board members expressed the desire for a higher technology fee for students, whether it would be a separate fee or be rolled into enrollment fees.

Board member Eric Jones said he’s not sure if he’s seeing definite curriculum plans for the Chromebooks in other school subjects aside from the proposed updated math curriculum and that it wouldn’t be ready to roll out on Day 1 of the next school year.

“It just seems like we’re still figuring out how this is going to be use in curricula outside of math,” Jones said.

Board member Kris Wrenn said she would like to see all about 1,200 high schoolers have district-issued Chromebooks because kids need a foundational knowledge of computers now more than ever, whether they’re going to college or going straight into the work force.

“I want a balanced budget, but I’m pretty convinced that we’re in the age that kids need to learn by digital resources,” Wrenn said.

Stuckert said the whole tentative fiscal 2020 budget will be brought before the school board at the end of this summer. If the board elects some sort of plan to buy Chromebooks for any students, she said, students would start using the devices in August.