FARMINGTON — Farmington school officials are preparing to continue their technology initiative for the next two years by updating the technology plan and pursuing loans to fund it.
The Farmington Municipal School District Board of Education approved the district technology plan and the submission of an application to the New Mexico Finance Authority for educational technology funding loans last week.
Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Robert Emerson said that before the district can finish its application for about $6.5 million in loans to cover technology programs, it needs to have an updated technology plan approved by the New Mexico Public Education Department.
The educational loans will primarily fund the Farmington Learning Initiative, which provides about 5,200 Apple laptop computers to middle and high school students to use in the classroom and at home.
"Most of what is in the technology plan isn't all that different from what we did all the way back to 2011," Emerson said. "In terms of the learning initiative, we're doing the same thing."
A new process for filing the technology plan is mostly online, with part of the process dedicated to getting ready for the online version of the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment exam, which the district will be implementing in the current school year.
"We had to do all these tests of our network to see if we had enough network capacity and speed and computers for all the kids," Emerson said. "The state said 'You're ready for the 2015 test so you could do the test online this year,' and we said, 'sure.'"
The educational loans will fund the replacement of the Apple Macbook laptops for middle school students across the district as the laptops are replaced every four years. The older Macbook laptops will be transferred to elementary schools across the district.
Emerson said the district is exploring the possibility of expanding the initiative to Rocinante High School and the technology loans could cover the cost of providing laptops to students at the school.
"In the interest of equity, it's time to include those kids," Emerson said.
Included in the technology plan is about $498,000 in funds to handle charges from the previous year which were not budgeted.
Increases in enrollment and additional staff members added costs for new laptops for students and new laptops and projects for teachers.
Unplanned costs related to improving network capabilities to handle the assessment exam online testing were also responsible for the district spending more than was budgeted.
"When we did the budgeting, we didn't know we were going to be doing online testing," Emerson said.
District director of technology Charles Thacker said the school district is moving in the right direction for 21st century education needs and skills.
"We needed to take it upon ourselves and do it for the students and own it," Thacker said, "to hold it up to our own high standards to provide the tools for education for the students."