By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — A total of 340 new Chromebook laptop computers and improved wireless access in all three school buildings in Elk Mound will cost an estimated $187,000.
The Elk Mound Board of Education’s long-range planning committee discussed the computers and wireless access — along with a number of other projects for this year if money is available — at a November 5 meeting.
Mandatory standardized testing must soon be completed using computers and the Internet.
The Chromebooks for all three schools would cost $126,000, and the improved wireless access would cost about $61,000, said Dr. Ron Walsh, district administrator.
“Dead spots” exist in the high school concerning the wireless Internet access, and the dead spots affect standardized testing at the high school, said Paul Weber, Elk Mound High School principal.
Standardized tests given to students online using Internet access will completely replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) this spring.
In September of 2008, the Elk Mound school board approved connecting the school district to the Northern Tier of the Internet Backbone that runs just south of I-94 near Elk Mound.
The school district’s share of the cost of connecting to the Backbone was around $50,000.
At that time, Elk Mound was only one of three school districts in the state that would be connected to the Internet Backbone.
The Elk Mound school district has enough Internet access “to run a university, but we need new equipment to bring the connection (inside the buildings) up to speed,” Dr. Walsh said.
Because standardized testing soon will be all web-based, “we cannot be iffy if we are taking our tests,” said Eric Hanson, principal at Mound View Elementary.
Kyle Jenson, school board member and a member of the long-range planning committee, noted that at various school functions, such as basketball games, he hears complaints from parents that they cannot access the Internet with their Smartphones in certain areas of the buildings.
Part of the improved wireless Internet connection for all three buildings would include creating “zones” for public access, Dr. Walsh said.
The high school commons and the high school gymnasium would be examples of areas where wireless Internet access would be available to people visiting the school, he said.
Creating zones would limit public access so that the school district is not providing free wireless access for everyone in the village of Elk Mound, Dr. Walsh said.
The long-range planning committee reviewed a list of other projects related to “replacement cycle” items that might not need to completed for at least several years as well as a prioritized list of items that would be completed this year as money becomes available, such as the Chromebooks and the improved wireless access.
The major systems upgrade list based on a replacement cycle does not contain any items that must be done immediately, Dr. Walsh said.
The 2010 referendum project covered many of the systems upgrades that had been on the list previously, he said.
The $9.235 million building project in 2010 and 2011 included remodeling projects at all three schools as well as the construction of new classrooms at Mound View Elementary to accommodate increased enrollment.
For example, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at all three schools are in good shape, Dr. Walsh said, noting that the installation of a “shoulder boiler” at Mound View Elementary would be the exception.
The shoulder boiler would be useful at this time of year when some heat is needed but it is not necessary to fire up the full boiler system, he said.
The clocks and the bell systems at all three schools were replaced this year, Dr. Walsh said.
The list of needs averages out to be a little over $500,000 each year over ten years, he said.
The prioritized list includes educational items and facility maintenance.
The list for this year is a little under $500,000, although for many years, the list was around $1 million, Dr. Walsh noted.
Here are some of the specific items on the list and the estimated cost:
• Middle school bleachers (26 years old): $35,000.
• Books for middle school reading teachers: $6,000.
• Middle school tables and chairs: $2,000.
• iPads for elementary staff: $10,000.
• Elementary school scoreboard: $7,000.
• Elementary guided reading books: $3,000.
• Elementary intervention materials: $10,000.
• Elementary playground concrete: $4,000.
• Elementary floors: $15,000.
• Elementary security cameras: $7,500.
• High school computer software: $24,000.
• High school choir risers: $11,000.
• High school softball field bleachers: $9,000; fill for the infield: $2,000.
• High school shop equipment: $2,200.
• High school science equipment: $1,900.
• High school gym floor: $22,000.
• High school inside door key fobs (computerized settings to lock and unlock the doors at specific times): $20,000.
• High school “Baby Think It Over” dolls: $7,000.
• High school track maintenance: $10,000.
The long-range planning committee agreed that the items on the list should be placed on the agenda for the Elk Mound Board of Education’s November meeting.
In prior years, the school board has approved the list of items and has authorized the administrators to do the items as funds become available during the school year or at the end of the school year with money that remains in the budget.
The Elk Mound Board of Education meets next on November 17 at 7 p.m.