Education

H-F’s 800 Chromebooks for freshmen part of $1.3 million tech budget

Homewood-Flossmoor High School has a budget of nearly $1.3 million for technology needs for the 2024-25 school year. The budget allocates 90% for technology replacement and the remaining 10% on new technologies, according to Steve Richardson, director of the Information Technology Department.

Richardson stressed that replacement can also mean innovation. New equipment “enhances the quality and performance of our technology,” he said, offering the example of “upgrading from traditional projectors to cutting-edge 75-inch to 85-inch interactive touch screen devices” that are “dramatically improving the interactive experience between teachers and students.”

“Last year we piloted the interactive TVs and the teachers loved it. It’s probably our biggest request,” he told members of the District 233 Finance Committee. “We have to give teachers the right tools to do the job. It’s most important for them to pilot these things.”

Richardson said the total budget’s final number is $919,800 because H-F offset costs with two grants — the Digital Equity Grant and the E-Rate Connectivity Fund grant that “covered almost all the Chromebooks needed for the incoming freshman class.” 

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The district purchased about 800 Chromebooks to provide every freshman with a device that they will use throughout their four years at H-F.

Richardson said concerns of supply shortages have passed, but now he’s seeing inflationary cost increases. A Chromebook was $311 in 2023. This year the price jumped to $354, costing H-F an additional $33,000, plus a licensing fee. 

“We weren’t anticipating that big of a jump,” he told committee members.

The IT Department took the school year to work with staff hearing their concerns about how equipment works or doesn’t work for them, and in some cases allowing teachers to test out new equipment. Richardson credited staffers Brian Dvorkin, technology facilitator, and Dion Perozzi, hardware manager, with setting a course over many months on equipment updates and innovations that will benefit staff and the school.

Richardson told board members every dollar the IT department budgets is for “the stakeholder” and has been vetted through “a well thought-out process.”

One of the major expenses for this year is a $100,000 investment in the school-wide communications system. Richardson said there is no doubt the equipment is dated. If there was a failure, he predicted H-F would be without a working system for weeks.

Richardson assured the board that his department has planned for the IT needs for the new science wing under construction.

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