PENNCREST to use federal stimulus funds to purchase 1,200 iPads | News


A “very real possibility” for remote learning next school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic led PENNCREST officials to purchase 1,200 iPads for students.

The school district will use nearly $400,000 of its federal stimulus money to make the purchase for students following a school board vote Monday.

The purchase, which totals $394,740, also includes cases for all of the iPads, which were bought at a rate of $294 per device. The cases were bought in packs of 10 at $349.50 per pack, with 120 packs bought in total.

“With the conversation right now at the state level and the very real possibility of a remote-learning environment next year — whether that is a hybrid and remote or distance learning program to some degree similar to what our flexible instruction day program or our continuity of education plan is this year — in order to move forward and provide better instruction and plan student engagement, the administration believes we need to order the other ‘half’ of the iPads,” Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said.

As such, the purchase was recommended by the administration in order to provide education to students should such a situation arise.

Glasspool said iPads had been purchased by the district last year, and this new quantity would cover the remaining “half” of students. The district anticipates receiving $780,000 from the federal COVID-19 stimulus bill, known as the CARES Act.

The devices would be used for a variety of services, including to substitute for physical textbooks. This would be done by purchasing digital licenses for those textbooks so they can be downloaded to the iPads.

Glasspool said there were rules and regulations regarding the use of the stimulus money, and federal and state governments were recommending they be primarily used for one-time purchases.

Board member Timothy Brown expressed some concern over the purchase, especially once the pandemic lockdown ends. Brown said that while he was not necessarily opposed to the use of the iPads, he thought the way they were introduced into classrooms was poor, with many teachers not using them.

“I’ve really tried to be open-minded about this, but I really have my doubts,” he said.

Brown pushed for teachers to receive “adequate training” on the use of the iPads, and to set a policy to make sure they are used.

Board member Jeff Brooks said he agreed with Brown’s sentiments, but thought the sooner the board made the purchase using the one-time influx of cash from the stimulus, the sooner they can begin training and implementing the iPads for future use. Board member Jennifer Davis expressed similar thoughts.

“I feel like to not use this opportunity to purchase the iPads would be a mistake, but I fear in the year 2020, whether it’s everybody’s preference or not, that’s just where we need to be as a district, to streamline and use these things in school,” she said.

Board President Mark Gerow said he thought teachers were getting better at the use of the iPads and acknowledged they can’t be used in every class, but thought utilization for them would prepare the district for the future. Board member Luigi DeFrancesco agreed, saying the board could make a policy to enforce use of the iPads.

Ultimately, the vote passed 8-1. Brown gave a yes vote “reluctantly.” The single “no” vote came from Robert Johnston, who said he agreed with the concerns that Brown raised.

Sean P. Ray can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at sray@meadvilletribune.com.

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