Schools to get $500K in wireless upgrades |

Schools to get $500K in wireless upgrades

Teri Vance

Students will not have to pay a fee to participate in school activities next year and other services will be restored, according to a revised budget approved Tuesday night by the Carson City School Board.

“It would be helpful to parents to not have that additional burden,” said Superintendent Richard Stokes.

The board approved a $59.87 million budget last month, which drew $2.5 million from district reserves while cutting $1.7 million from district expenses, which included an increase in classroom sizes and a decrease in teachers and other staff, including all elementary school counselors.

Stokes presented the budget amendments to board members, noting an additional $1 million available through the Legislature funding all-day kindergarten at all schools, and increases in per-pupil and classroom-size reduction funding. He said it was important to involve the board in the decision making.

Other priorities he outlined for the surplus were technology upgrades, cell phones for administrators and local field trips.

The bulk of the money, $500,000, will go to wireless upgrades at all school sites to implement the district’s 1-to-1 plan, where every student is given a mobile device.

The wireless upgrades were originally planned to be funded through the bond, approved by voter’s in 2010. However, Stokes said, as assessed valuations have dropped in Carson City, those revenues have dried up.

He said students will be required to take standardized tests online in coming years.

“There are wonderful opportunities available on the Internet, and we recognize that not all of our students have access at home,” Stokes said. “This would create a way to bridge that gap.”

Cell phones cost $50,000 and $10,000 was budgeted for field trips. Elimination the pay-to-play initiative also eliminated a projected $50,000 revenue.

That left about $400,000 leftover.

While district officials listed possibilities for those funds, including restoral of janitorial staff, a district administrator for the English-as-a-second-language program and elementary school counselors, Stokes recommended it be saved — at least for a little while.

He said the district will not know for sure how many teachers will be needed to fill the all-day kindergarten positions until after Labor Day, when all students have traditionally returned to school.

“We honestly don’t know how many students are going to walk through our doors,” he said. “We would be prudent to save money for that end. It will allow us to add teachers or several teachers if need be.”

Trustee Ron Swirczek argued that $350,000 should be used to bringing back elementary school counselors.

“I believe as a priority that we restore at least three of the elementary school counselors,” he said. “This is a high-stakes decision we’re making here. It ties into our strategic plan.”

Board president Lynnette Conrad said eliminating counselors was not a personal decision.

“The issue isn’t whether school counselors are important,” she said. “The issue is, how do we deal with our funding? We don’t have money for everything. It comes down to us having to do the dirty work.”

In a 4-3 vote, trustees decided to follow the district’s recommendation, with the caveat that if funds aren’t needed for additional teachers, it would go to hiring counselors.

Trustees Candace Stowell, Swirczek and Stacie Wilke voted against the motion — favoring adding the counselors back in immediately — while Joe Cacioppo, Laurel Crossman and Lynnette Conrad voted in favor.