Increased student access to technology is likely to be weighed during next year’s East Hampton School Board budget debate, given the discussion at the board’s meeting Tuesday night that followed a presentation by Donald Fox and Chris Merkert, East Hampton Middle School science teachers, about Google Chromebooks, laptops that use Chrome operating systems. The East Hampton Middle School has 80 Chromebooks, or three class sets, which rotate among a small cadre of teachers. Each costs about $250. The question is whether to expand the program.
Around the nation, some districts have successfully experimented with providing a digital device for each student. In East Hampton, middle school students use Chromebooks during class but are not allowed to take them out of the building. This has raised a question about fairness because not every student has Internet access outside of school.
“We’re weighing a lot of things, and we know the direction that we seem to want to go in — toward technology and embracing the technology that’s available,” Patricia Hope, the board president, said Wednesday morning. “The wise use of technology can engage students in rigorous and meaningful learning.”
“These types of things are being fleshed out. The statement was made that we could save thousands going paperless,” Richard Burns, the superintendent, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We still need to have paper. You can’t have it all, but we’re at the point now where these conversations will be part of the budget process.”
Though the district has come in under the state-imposed 2-percent tax cap in recent years, Jackie Lowey, a board member, said the board faced difficult decisions in weighing priorities for the year ahead.
“As we all know, there are academic and structural building security issues that over the long haul may mean we need to take a good look at things,” Ms. Lowey said. She spoke about the possibility of investing in additional Chromebooks, increased test preparation, and adding a section of a popular coding class, among other things.
“Our community of taxpayers is confident we are not wasting their money. We want to do these things and we can’t afford it, and here’s the decision and the fork in the road that we’re at.”
Later in the meeting, Mr. Burns handed out a fact-sheet about the Common Core, a set of national learning standards. It included a cheat-sheet of Common Core-related acronyms.
It also was announced that three East Hampton High School students had donated $2,500 to the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital. Shannon Ryan, Trevor Mott, and Thomas Brierley, members of the varsity swim team, had raised the money by selling pink bracelets.
In addition, Claude Beudert, a middle school teacher, said its student association recently delivered 1,106 cans to the East Hampton Food Pantry. The organization also supplied 15 families with Thanksgiving dinners.
Finally, board members unanimously approved the administration’s recommendations. Among the highlights was the extension of an external auditor’s contract for two additional years at an annual cost of $22,500, an extended medical leave for Michael Rivas, a custodial worker, and approving Enrique Jarrin and Edwin Rowe as substitute custodians. The board also reinstated Barbara Murray, a paraprofessional, effective Dec. 2, and approved a shared sports agreement between East Hampton and Springs and a special education contract between East Hampton and Southampton.
The meeting planned for Tuesday, Dec. 17, has been postponed. The next public meeting will be on Jan. 7, following a two-week holiday recess.