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833 set to give nod to $7.4 million capital budget

The District 833 School Board is expected to approve a $7.4 million operating capital budget on March 18 that includes $750,000 for textbooks and $385,000 for computer-operated white boards.

The capital budget is dedicated to repair and improvement of district facilities and is funded by state aid, a levy to pay rent on leased facilities and a voter-approved $1 million a year for new technology.

For the district printing center, $200,000 will be spent to replace aging equipment.

There is also $200,000 in contingency for Newport Elementary School, which will get a new heating and air conditioning system this summer.

The replacement is funded through federal stimulus low-interest bonds, but plans for it were quickly drawn to take advantage of the money and so the contingency money would be used to cover expenses for unforeseen problems, said Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations, at the March 4 school board workshop meeting.

School Board Member Jim Gelbmann wants the district to buy more SMART boards. SMART Boards are interactive white boards that act as huge touch pads when the display from teachers' computers is projected onto them.

There are 58 systems, at about $8,000 each, in the budget which are allocated to buildings based on enrollment, Vogel said. They are allocated to buildings that decide which teachers will get them.

Gelbmann argued that East Ridge High School has SMART Boards in every classroom creating inequity among schools.

"It keeps students' attention," Gelbmann said. "We live in a technology world. We can't get them in fast enough."

Vogel said he didn't dispute that, but added that when the boards became available five years ago, there was limited interest from teachers.

Now, Vogel said, it's a struggle to get teachers trained. A special summer academy was held at East Ridge, he said.

New building additions at Cottage Grove Middle School and Grey Cloud Elementary School got SMART boards during the construction process, Vogel said.

If there is any money that "can be squeezed" out of the capital budget, it should go to buy more SMART boards, Gelbmann said.

Among the other items in the capital budget is nearly $300,000 to replace computers in elementary and secondary schools.

There is also $275,000 in computer license and maintenance fees and $350,000 for phone and network upgrades.

Grounds maintenance around schools and other district facilities is increasing by $50,000, Vogel said, because of field maintenance arrangements with the City of Woodbury around East Ridge.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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