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School board votes to reduce technology fees

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Wallets will get some reprieve next year after the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education voted to reduce laptop and iPad fees for the 2017-18 school year.

Board members have discussed reducing the technology fees before but have not voted on the issue. Board members Alicia Byrd and Travis Allen led the discussion Monday night, with Byrd pointing out that the current $50 and $25 fees could place financial strain on single-parent households or on households with multiple children.

But the issue isn’t cut and dry. Andrew Smith, district chief strategy officer, said the technology fees pay for device repairs as well as for software such as Achieve3000. The fees couldn’t be reduced too much, he cautioned, before it would begin to have a negative effect on what the system is able to offer.

“It also impacts things besides us just fixing them,” Smith said.

Smith suggested that the board “lean on the conservative side” of fee reduction and see how things fare over the course of a year.

Byrd then asked if it would be possible to put a cap on the amount a single-family pays in technology fees — $75 to $100 per household. Smith said he would have to check to see how many families in the district are in that boat.

Byrd made a motion to reduce the laptop fee from $50 to $40 and iPad fees from $25 to $20.

The board spent some time discussing logistics should the board put a fee cap for families. Superintendent Lynn Moody said that often, multiple siblings attend multiple schools.

“That would be difficult to manage,” she said.

Allen suggested that parents or guardians could take their receipts with them between schools.

“In the grand scheme of our digital rollout, I think that would be a very easy thing to accomplish,” he said.

However, Board Chairman Josh Wagner said parents might lose the receipt or not realize they need to keep them. In that case, school personnel would be forced to either refuse them or to take their word for it.

“There’s not really a gray area,” he said. “You have to pick one side of the fence to be on.”

Moody added that the district currently allows families struggling financially to apply for fee waivers.

The board agreed to vote on the fee reduction Monday and consider a per-family cap over the course of the next year.

The motion passed unanimously. Board member Dean Hunter was absent.

In an interview after the meeting, Byrd said she feels the decision was the best one for families who might be struggling.

“When you’re dealing with single-parent households and households with multiple children, you want to make sure that laptops and iPads are affordable for all,” she said.

Wagner said he felt it was a good idea to try and alleviate strain where possible, while maintaining the integrity of the one-to-one program.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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