A Garland ISD special board meeting was held on July 30 to make a decision on an interlocal agreement with Region 4 to purchase iPads for pre-kindergarten through second grade.

According to a presentation by Executive Technology Officer Matt Yeager, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced a bulk purchasing opportunity matching $200 million in federal funds to support school district purchases of learning devices (like iPads, Chromebooks, Dell laptops and hot spots) to districts directing the devices to economically disadvantaged students.

To take part in this program, an interlocal agreement must be entered into with Region 4. The purchasing agreement would be for an amount not to exceed $3 million. The deadline to enter into the agreement is Aug. 4.

Yeager stated that the Operation Connectivity is a statewide initiative by Gov. Greg Abbott, the TEA and Dallas Independent School District (DISD). He served on the Operation Connectivity Taskforce as the Technology Solutions Workstream team lead. Their objective was to recommend and secure technology solutions that will meet varying needs of Texas school districts.

TEA announced the Operation Connectivity Bulk Order and Device Reimbursement Program on July 15.

According to Yeager’s presentation, funds will be distributed through two vehicles - bulk order of devices with state matching funds – dollar for dollar state matching funds for one year, and reimbursement of previously incurred connectivity related expenses incurred on or after May 21 through July 22.

“For the bulk order and the state match, we are proposing to purchase 13,000 iPads for pre-K through second grade. The board has already taken resolution prior, to do 3-5 (grade) Chromebooks so that’s in the works, and we’re  already in the middle school and high school 1:1 program,” Yeager said. “This will provide us the opportunity to purchase 13,000 iPads, and it’s a bundle so the state price is $386. It’s the latest iPad and also includes a rugged case and keyboard.”

The total cost for these iPads is $5 million with the state expected to match the funds at $2.5 million and expected GISD expense is $2.5 million.

“Dr. (Jovan) Wells and I discussed how best to utilize these funds as a discount for us, and we came up with the iPad solution for Pre-K to 2 to help, especially with our e-learning and remote learning,” Yeager said.

He stated that this allows the students a touch screen option and also provides a keyboard so they can type.

Procurement will be through Region 4 as an interlocal agreement.

“They are the ones that we will be contacting with and they are the ones that actually go through purchasing so the funds will go through Region 4 through this interlocal agreement and then the devices will be shipped directly to us from the vendor,” Yeager said.

“We have this money in our current fiscal 2020-21 budget because we were originally planning on purchasing the Chromebooks for (grades) 3-5 in our current fiscal budget, but we used CARES fund for that,” he added.

Yeager said the expected turnaround for purchase and receiving of devices is about four weeks with iPads. At this time, all other Chromebooks are pushed out into February now because of the drastic demand across the state.

Regarding the reimbursement program, Yeager said there has been no process or rules determined for the reimbursement program yet, but they are expecting more details to be released by TEA in the next couple of weeks after the bulk order process is completed.

The total funds GISD has spent on technology devices between May 21 and July 22 is $5.8 million.

The board unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Region 4 for the purchase of 13,000 iPads.

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