In taking another step toward being prepared for the possibility of distance learning when schools open in August for Williamson County Schools, the district is seeking the purchase of 18,000 Chromebooks at a cost of just over $6 million.

Members of the Williamson County Board of Education voted unanimously at its May meeting Monday night to move the request forward to the county commission, which will vote on the resolution at its next meeting on June 8.

According to the resolution: “During the COVID-19 situation, we needed to develop new strategies and plan to equip our students to be able to do a lot of their learning at a distance. The computers are needed to enable continued learning for our students.”

Combined with Chromebooks the district already has on hand, the total number of devices would be around 44,300 to start the year. The district had done a pilot program with Chromebooks for every student at Independence High School and Brentwood Middle School, and WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said that experience is expected to help with the logistics of using Chromebooks and distance learning across the district.

He had spelled out at last week’s work session that WCS was making preparations for any of three scenarios the system could face when the 2020-21 school year begins Aug. 7. 

There’s a best-case scenario in which school campuses can be open, a worst-case one in which school buildings must remain closed to start the year, and something in between that’s a sort of hybrid of on campus and off. 

“Our entire district is being represented in this planning process that we’ve been going through internally,” Golden said then. “Once we get a draft put together, we’re going to meet with all our administrators and with the student advisory council, parent representatives and business representatives.”

Chromebooks will be used, regardless of which scenario comes into play.

“We’re in the queue for our contractor, Dell,” Golden said Monday night. “As many of you might guess, there is certainly a lot of demand from school districts for this. We should receive those devices in early July-July 10 is the projected date. We’re planning and hoping for that.”

Costs for the new Chromebooks is $6,066,292 for a lease-purchase agreement at 0% interest and a yearly commitment of just over $1.5 million.

Click here to view Monday’s remote board meeting. The next board work session will be Thursday, June 11, at 6 p.m., with the regular meeting coming Monday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m.

Though schools have been closed since the first week of March with the onset of the coronavirus, the official last day of school is Thursday. WCS will hold its annual Willco Awards Tuesday, May 26, from 7-8 p.m. in a virtual setting. 

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