Legacy Middle School student Sam Woodford, 11, explains to his mother, Misty, how his Chromebook programs work after they picked up his laptop on Tuesday. He also gets his school supplies ready on the family dining room table for remote learning beginning Aug. 7. (Photo: Kerri Bartlett / The Tennessean)

Williamson County Schools is in the process of completing its mission of equipping all of its students with an updated laptop computer.

Due to the increased need for technology because of remote learning and the implementation of the WCS online program, which serves 6,700 students, the district is seeking to replace old laptops with new ones.

The Williamson County Commission education committee on Monday approved the district’s request to enter into a four-year lease agreement for 19,856 Chromebooks in the amount of $5.8 million, or $1.4 million a year.

The purchase would come from reallocated WCS capital project funds. 

The district made a similar technology purchase last summer.

In June, the Williamson County Commission budget committee approved the district’s purchase of $6 million in Dell Chromebooks, or approximately 18,500 computers, ensuring that each student, K-12, was equipped with an electronic device.

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WCS Technology Director Tim McNeese said the most recent capital request would replace failing laptops riddled with technological issues the district was planning on retiring.

In a separate resolution, the education committee also approved the county shifting  $1.5 million of its COVID-19 relief state CARES Act funds to help purchase 4,065 of the laptops for the school district. 

The County Commission budget committee meets on Monday to consider the funding of the laptops, while the County Commission casts a final vote at its monthly meeting in October.  

COVID-19 director’s role

Longtime Williamson County school board member Gary Anderson was recently elected to the Board of Tennessee School Boards Association. (Photo: File / Sanford Myers, The Tennessean)

Commissioner Chad Story, 4th District, asked Golden for clarification on the role of the district’s new executive director of COVID-19 response, Gary Anderson, former school board chairman and member of 30 years.

The Williamson County Commission approved the new executive director position along with three part-time nurse positions earlier this month. 

Anderson comes to WCS after serving as an operational director for Murfreesboro City Schools. The district announced his appointment to the position last week.

“The volume of work (related to COVID-19 effects) is still very high,” Golden said.  

“This position is taking responsibility of the school health and safety departments and coordinating the impact of COVID-19.”

Golden recited the “laundry list” of duties that Anderson will help manage, including district quarantine response plans related to academics, decisions that affect the opening and closing of campuses, management of new software systems and the high volume of communication with families.

“We are getting hundreds of emails related to every imaginable COVID-19 question,” Golden said.

‘Disruptive’ quarantines concern parents

Story also expressed concern about the high amount of “disruptive” quarantines among students.

“The massive amount of quarantine we are doing during this crazy time is disrupting the classroom and student life,” Story said.

Story said the quarantine process is a concern among constituents. Some parents are concerned about students missing weeks of school at a time, especially after missed class time last spring.  

“I hope (the COVID-9 executive director) will address these issues so it’s more streamlined and not as disruptive to a student’s and family’s life,” Story said.

Currently, 746 students and 40 staff members are in quarantine, while 63 people in WCS are in isolation. Students at Fairview High School just returned to campus on Monday after participating in remote learning for two weeks following an outbreak of 28 cases.

More: Williamson County Schools confirmed COVID-19 dip for students, increase for teachers

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Golden also reminded the education committee that the health department is the “decision maker” on quarantine, although the school district is still helping with contact tracing.

Kerri Bartlett covers issues affecting children, families, education and government in Williamson County. She can be contacted at kba[email protected], 615-308-8324 or  follow @keb1414 on Twitter.

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