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Loan to boost FWCS technology

Projects already slated for $1.95 million from state

Fort Wayne Community Schools leaders hope a nearly $2 million loan will mean some new technology and improved infrastructure for the district’s schools.

The district’s school board Monday approved an application to receive a $1,950,000 Common School Fund Loan from the state that would help defray the expense of adding education technology and infrastructure.

Unlike other technology loans – including School Technology Advancement Account loans – the Common School Fund Loan is based on a formula that considers the district’s enrollment.

The district has received this loan at least six times before, Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said.

The state will determine what the interest rate is after the loans have been approved, but the rate is typically about 1 percent.

The funds for the loan will be included in the district’s Debt Service Fund and repayment would begin in 2015.

Although the district has a long list of technology equipment on its wish list, this loan would help cover the costs of some specific projects, Director of Technology Jack Byrd said.

Among those projects is a $100,000 firewall program to help expand the district’s pilot bring-your-own-technology initiative, he said.

“We’ve done some pilot, but we’re going to expand that and we need a firewall to continue with that,” Byrd said.

Elementary schools would use some of the money to replace outdated teacher computers and more would be used for projects proposed by teachers that line up with each school’s improvement plan.

The middle schools would use part of the funding to expand access to iPads for math lessons and to replace teacher computers and high school students would see more mobile labs to be used for online learning and assessments, Byrd said.

Board member Glenna Jehl asked if the improvements to technology would also help with glitches related to ISTEP assessments.

Byrd explained that none of the online assessment issues were related to problems with FWCS technology or infrastructure.

“Our infrastructure was capable of handling the bandwidth and we did not have any computer programs that I have been made aware of,” Byrd said.

The problems have been attributed to issues with servers maintained by CTB/McGraw Hill, the test administrator contracted through the Indiana Department of Education, he said.

Officials have said disruptions to the 2013 ISTEP test affected 12,000 FWCS students, and it took some students more than two hours to complete a 30-minute test.

The glitches have led to a delay in the release of the most recent ISTEP scores, something that Board President Mark GiaQuinta said bothers him.

“I’m going to step up my efforts to find out why our ISTEP scores haven’t been released,” GiaQuinta said.