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New Port Arthur school board approves purchase of nearly $700K in computer upgrades for K-2 students

Port Arthur Independent School District officials approved the canvas of election results from the school board trustee meeting held May 1 and administered the oath of office to four individuals this week.

New to the board is Taylor Getwood, who was sworn in as the youngest trustee to serve in the district. Incumbents Brandon Bartie and Debra Ambroise, as well as Dianne Brown, were also sworn into office.

Newly sworn PAISD trustee Taylor Getwood at his seat. (Courtesy photo)

The board got down to business, giving the green light to the purchase of Chromebooks and their cases for kindergarten through second grade use.

The cost for the computers, which are touch-screen, comes to $643,874, while the Gumdrop cases come in at $44,725.

PAISD students are returning to in-person learning in August, Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie said in an interview this week.

“Each student will be assigned a device to be utilized during the school day, for assignments and in some cases communication with parents,” he said. “We have had great success with Schoology, a learning management system that allows our district to create, manage and share academic content.”

The K-2 students were given a smaller device without a keyboard to utilize during the pandemic. The Chromebook, however, has a keyboard and touch-screen feature that will allow the younger students to be able to complete more activities, he said.

Learning the keyboard is now important as Texas will transition to online assessments by 2023. This means fourth grade students must type in their composition for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test, Sam Houston elementary School Principal Marcia Sharp said.

“We are very excited to know the district stepped forward with the Chromebooks. It has a bigger screen and also a keyboard, which is essential,” Sharp said.

Students do have time set aside to go to a computer lab for 45 minutes three times week.

“That’s not enough. We have to get them ready to write a composition on the Chromebook keyboard,” Sharp said. “We want the kids to develop these skills of using the keyboard and touch-screen and be proficient with technology.”

Trustees also approved the purchase of teacher desk shields from Hertz Furniture for a price not to exceed $300,000.

PAISD already purchased desk shields for students who returned to in-person learning in August.

“In an effort to continue to mitigate to spread of the virus, we feel it is reasonable to purchase desk shields for our teachers too,” Porterie said.

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