Rowan-Salisbury Schools to sell old devices for $4.6 million

Published 6:40 pm Monday, August 10, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education on Monday voted to enter a contract to sell its outgoing fleet of devices for $4.6 million.

The winning bid for about 20,000 Apple devices went to Second Life Mac, a hardware resale company based in Skokie, Illinois. Included in the bid are special provisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the company helping the district safely collect the devices. There were other factors working in its favor included like the financial stability of the purchaser and flexibility.

In an effort to keep the beginning of classes as smooth as possible, the device exchange will not happen until September.

Students were allowed to keep their devices this summer when usually they would be turned in at the end of the school year. The district made the call to leave the devices deployed because it was the more simple option than collecting them from students who had been learning virtually since mid-March, and gave the schools a way to stay connected with families during the summer. Summer programming such as camps through Horizons Unlimited were moved out of classrooms and had virtual components students needed devices to participate in.

The district also sent devices home with K-2 students for the first time. Normally, those students would only use devices assigned to them in class. K-2 students will take home devices again this year because traditional students will begin the year with three virtual days each week.

The sale approved Monday was done via upset bid process. This opens the sale up to parties who then place bids in rounds until there is only one bidder above an increasing cost threshold. The process went through six rounds, starting with six bidders at just below $3 million.

Chief Technology Officer David Blattner noted the bid is based on a price-per-unit, and the final sale amount could vary. If collections exceed expectations, the district could take in more money than anticipated on the sale or less if collection comes in low.

Board Chair Kevin Jones asked if sale price was based on the number of devices the district believes is in the hands of students or a reasonable collection estimate. Blattner said the projection is the latter and an estimate of a reasonable number of devices the district will not be able to recapture.

The board approved a $12.3 million contract to lease a new fleet of Apple devices for the district this spring, which will be paid during a three-year lease cycle. The latest lease replaces MacBook Air laptops used by high school students with iPads, which were already used by students in the lower grades. The result is a lease with a lower cost compared to one with the same services and laptops.

Superintendent Lynn Moody said the bids came in high and the timing of the bid process was perfect.

“We didn’t know that we were going to hit a pandemic at the time that we made the decision to do the lease, but Dr. Blattner did a great job of securing those bids,” Moody said.

Jones noted the sale would account for a “big chunk” of the cost of the new devices. The sale total is more than an annual lease payment.

The decision to migrate all students to iPads was made after students participating in a pilot program at North Rowan High School returned positive feedback about using tablets instead of laptops.

The district would normally charge a device fee to allow students to take them home. The fees support device repair, but the board opted to waive the fee for all students this year.

Blattner said the district collected devices from graduating seniors, and devices not turned in have been locked with display a message saying the devices are property of RSS. The message says the device needs to be turned in or it will be reported stolen.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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