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Why RPS Asked for Laptop Money One Day Before School Started

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Tuesday night, the day before school started at Rochester Public Schools, the Rochester School Board was meeting to approve $1,000,000 in federal funding be spent to buy 4,500 Chromebooks for students.

The school board is scheduled to vote at its Tuesday meeting on a recommendation to buy 4,500 HP Chromebooks “to increase the supply of available technology in the buildings for the in-person instruction days.” The cost is just over $1-million. RPS expects to be reimbursed through the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. (Keep reading, click HERE)

The funding request passed, and those Chromebooks will be purchased. The timing seemed odd to a lot of people in Rochester, Minnesota, so I got in touch with John Carlson, the Executive Director of Finance for Rochester Public Schools and asked, “What’s the deal?”

JOHN CARLSON: Well, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of moving parts, especially in a big district, in a big state. And the application for funding just came online on August 21st. So I know it feels like 47 days ago, but it was only 11 days ago. We applied and we received approval on August 28th. So only about four days ago that we actually had permission to use our federal funds this way.

JAMES RABE – It couldn’t have been done back in March, the money just wasn’t there.

JOHN CARLSON – That’s correct. This is a first opportunity. We were lucky that we had a board meeting coming up three days after the approval was there.

Connecticut School District Prepares Classrooms For Hybrid Learning
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Click play to hear the conversation with more questions from KROC NEWS Director Kim David. Scroll down to read a transcript of the conversation.

Listen to James Rabe Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11-Noon on KROC AM 1340 and 96.9 FM and Weekdays with Jessica Williams Weekday from 6 – 10 AM on Y-105 FM

TRANSCRIPT:

The recording was edited so as to contain only the conversation about Chromebooks. It is an automatic transcription, so some errors may be included.

  • JR – James Rabe
  • JC – John Carlson
  • KD – Kim David

JR (00:00):
Something happened last night at the Rochester school board meeting that I think we need to talk about. I’ve had a lot of questions about the whole money approved for buying Chromebooks for students. So I said to myself, who do you get in touch with you? Get in touch with John Carlson, the executive director of finance at Rochester public schools. Welcome to the show, sir.

JC (00:10):
Hey, thanks for having me, James

JR (00:12):
Kim David’s going to be joining us here in just a second. And can you, can you tell us first what actually was approved last night at the school board meeting?

JC (00:27):
So last night, the school board approved purchasing 4,500 Chromebooks for our students to use this coming school year.

JR (00:37):
Alrighty. And a lot of people have asked why, why did that happen just the day before the first day of school, leaving a bunch of kids without technology?

JC (00:44):
Well, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of moving parts, especially in a big district, in a big state. And the application for funding just came online on August 21st. So I know it feels like 47 days ago, but it was only 11 days ago. We applied and we received approval on August 28th. So only about four days ago. Did we actually have permission to use our federal funds this way.

JR (01:08):
It couldn’t have been done back in March the money just wasn’t there.

JC (01:11):
That’s correct. This is a first opportunity. We were lucky that we had a board meeting coming up three days after the approval was there.

KD (01:19):
John, I’m just kinda curious how you know, here at work, we periodically get these updates had just mess up our day until we get our techie people in here to get everything figured out. But what’s a, what is the district policy on these kids take these devices home, or even use him at school who’s updating them and making sure they’re, they’re not doing something with them that they shouldn’t be doing.

JC (01:43):
Sure. So most of that is controlled through our technology services department and is monitored that way. And when the devices come back, there’ll be updated if they need to be. Although my understanding is the Chromebooks don’t require a lot of updating. They’re pretty easy to use. And pretty reliable.

KD (02:02):
Are you hearing from other districts? Are they doing the same thing? Are they, I mean, it sounds like they almost have to, if they’re going with add distance learning model, right?

JC (02:11):
Yes. We know that a lot of districts are putting in technology orders. In fact, there’s a national shortage right now in Chromebooks. So unfortunately the orders went out this morning. Probably won’t be received until late October, sometime early November. So we’re going to have to make due for a month, month and a half with less devices on

JR (02:32):
John Carlson. Thanks for your time today. I really appreciate it. Not a problem. Thanks for having me. You bet. John Carlson, the executive director of finance of the Rochester public schools.

School starting means fall can’t be far away, a great time to go apple picking!

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