Richmond Community Schools’s PowerUp 1:1 is moving forward as the system plans to spend $987,160 for 2,900 laptops to provide each student in grades five to 12 with a device.

The school board approved the purchase during its Wednesday meeting.

The Dell Latitude 3150 laptops are being purchased from CDW-G for $340.40 each.

“We’ll have those ready to disseminate over the summer when the students come back for the 2017-2018 school year, said chief operations officer Rob Tidrow.

Three vendors each provided three bid alternatives to the school district: a base bid, a bid alternative 1 that included an additional 4 GB of RAM, and a bid alternative 2 that included the Lightspeed Management bundle.

CDW-G’s bid provided the extras at the lowest price. CDW-G’s base bid was $917,850 or $316.50 per device and its alternative bid 1 was $1,146,950 or $395.50 per device.

“They’re very similar to the ones we recently purchased for our teaches,” Tidrow said. “We’re very excited about this because this is where students in grades five through 12 next year will all receive a laptop for that 1 to 1 initiative where they’ll have them to take home, bring to school, and use them to that next step in our digital learning experience.”

The bid was chosen, Tidrow said, because it included the Lightspeed Management bundle.

“This will allow us to have individual control over the laptops and will allow us to have filters for the students when they’re away from school, off-campus. We have that control now on campus. This will allow us that kind of connection when they’re away from campus. It will control some of the items that might get brought in like spyware,” Tidrow said.

The other bids came from Electronic Strategies Inc. (ESI) and  Riverside Technologies Inc. (RTI).

ESI offered the Dell Latitude 3150 with a base bid of $937,744 or $323.36 per device; the alternative bid 1 was $1,278,030 or $440.70 per device; and the alternative bid 2 was $1,005,256 or $364.64 per device.

RTI offered the ThinkPad 11e with a base bid of $1,115,456 or $384.64 per device; the alternative bid 1 was $1,568,146  or $540.70 per device; and the alternative bid 2 was $706,962 or $243.78  per device, but the device offered with this price didn’t meet RCS’ minimum specifications.

RCS originally intended for the PowerUp rollout to take place for the start of school in fall 2016, but the teachers’ union raised an objection, so the plan was delayed a year. Richmond Education Association members said they had too little input into the original plan before it was approved and filed an unfair labor practice complaint in February against RCS. REA and administrators met to amend the plan, leading to a withdrawal of the unfair labor practice claim in May.

Committees are being formed that include REA members to give their ideas about the rollout of PowerUp.

Teachers and students are beginning to use the Canvas online learning management system that allows teachers to share information with parents and students and offer student assessments that provide quick feedback. Usage has increased where students have access to computers, such as laptop carts, biomedical classes and other lab environments. More training is planned later for teachers, students and staff on Canvas and Microsoft Office 365.

A rollout committee will look at ways to help students and parents become comfortable with the new computers and Canvas.

In other business

Also Wednesday, the school board:

• Presented plaques and honored the board’s two departing members, Kelly Baumgartner and Linda Morgason, whose terms end this year. Baumgartner said the best part of serving on the board from 2006 to 2016 was watching students graduate each year. She said she is most proud of the board and district’s efforts to raise the high school graduation rate. Morgason, who was absent from the meeting, served on the board from 2008 to 2016. Board president Dixie Robinson said Morgason was her mentor when she joined the board. Both women were praised for their leadership.

• Approved calendars for the 2017-2018 and the 2018-2019 school years

• Approved the 2017-2018 high school curriculum guide, which includes two new courses: an Advanced Placement course in European history and a service learning credit course, Alternatives to Violence Project, which will focus on skills for facilitation, de-escalating conflicts and solving them.

• Heard from Charles Elementary School first grade teacher Erica Pearson, who said some current teachers’ morale has been affected by the changes in salary payment. With the recent teacher shortage, starting salaries have been increased by $3,000 to $4,000 to entice new applicants, Pearson said. However, the merit salary increases are not keeping up with the first-year salary enticements and seasoned teachers are being asked to mentor younger teachers who now earn more money than they do, Pearson said. She asked the board and administration to be creative problem solvers and to find a way to provide equity to teachers caught between the starting salary increase and lessened merit pay raises.