USD 383 school board members: Clockwise from left: Curt Herrman, Kristin Brighton, Darell Edie, Katrina Lewison, Jurdene Coleman, Karla Hagemeister and Brandy Santos. (USD 383 courtesy photo)

The USD 383 Manhattan/Ogden School Board approved an emergency purchase Wednesday of Internet hot spots and iPad insurance, during a special meeting.

Doing so will allow students in the district without Internet be able to complete necessary school work to finish out the year from home. This purchase is part of the continuous learning program. Director of Business Services Lew Faust says the district is using contingency funds.

“We have adequate funds there and should be able to replenish those funds at the end of the year when we get the year-end balances. We have a lot of unknowns right now, but we want to code those and we’ll continue to see reserves so we can track them to see how much we’re spending,” he said.

The district plans on purchasing 1,500 hot spots and insurance for 2,000 iPads. The total cost for both is around $400,000. Director of Technology Mike Ribble says during snow days, students without internet access were getting further behind.

“Those were just one or two days, not six weeks. We know we can do packets, but if the other students are doing other activities, it’s going to be harder and harder for them to get an equitable education,” he said.

Surveys went out to families across the district that identified student needs. Those families who answered they didn’t have Internet access will receive a hot spot, if they choose. Ribble says rather than the district purchasing the hot spots to own, they’ll instead rent them for six months from their supplier.

“Not knowing where this virus is going, we may have to start next year being prepared for this, so this gives us a little bit of flexibility into the beginning of next year,” he said.

Ribble adds there will be a family wellness check to see who may need one, to ensure no gaps in who receives the equipment. To be safe, he says the district purchased more than they believed to be necessary.

“We are not at this point requiring any family to take any of these. As far as curricular pieces, I believe there are pieces in place for those who do not, or choose not to have devices,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent Eric Reid says they may be able to get an E-Rate on these devices, which means federal reimbursement for the district.

Hot spots will be delivered to students whose parents informed the district of their need during the recent continuous learning survey. The district hopes to have them distributed by April 2.

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