Editor's note: This is the second in a series on three issues on the May 7 vote regarding Helena Public Schools. Voters decide safety and security, technology, and basic general fund levies. His ballot will be mailed to him on April 22nd, and if returned, he must be postmarked by May 7th. You can also bring your ballot to the Lewis and Clark County Elections Office by 8 p.m. May 7th.

The second ballot issue proposed by Helena Public Schools for the May 7 election is a technology tax that will be felt in all schools in the district.

This tax will affect property taxes in various ways depending on the taxable value of the house.

Property taxes on a $100,000 home will increase by $19.61 per year, property taxes on a $300,000 home will increase by $58.83 per year, and property taxes on a $600,000 home will increase by $117.66 per year.

Others are also reading…

Gary Myers, director of instructional technology for the district, said the technology levy passed in 2005 has provided the district with about $1.1 million over the past 20 years; He said they were spending three times too much.

Virtual learning apps tracked children's data and online activities and shared them with advertisers, according to report

The second levy proposed by Helena Public Schools for the May 7 election is a technology levy that would affect all schools in the district.

adobe stock

School districts contribute general funds to help pay for technology costs such as licensing, equipment replacement, and cybersecurity insurance.

“The needs associated with technology and the associated costs have changed dramatically,” Myers said.

The rising costs are why the district used a portion of its general fund to pay for certain technology needs.

Myers said newer buildings such as Jim Darcy Elementary, Bryant Elementary and Central Elementary School have efficiencies, but the district's older buildings lack efficiencies.

Meyers said the levy discussion within the district was framed around three main components, starting with device replacement.

District technology must be replaced every five to 10 years, depending on the equipment in question, but districts are unable to maintain a consistent replacement cycle due to a lack of funding.

Rick Hayes, a supporter of the levy, said the technology used by students gets damaged over time and requires equipment to work.

Myers said there are many types of equipment in the district to consider, including student and educator laptops, desktops, student iPads, projectors and sound amplification systems.

All devices have a limited lifespan, and these devices must be addressed in order for the district to continue to deliver the programs used through the devices.

“The technology tax is not about kids' screen time, it's about making sure kids and teachers have the resources they need for the learning and instruction they do in school,” Myers said.

The second component of the levy is networking within the district, which Myers said Helena High School Principal Steve Senis called “the slowest thing imaginable.”

Meyers said the district's network capabilities are important because the programs used by teachers and students rely on strong connectivity. Approximately 4,500 devices are connected to the network at any one time within the district, supporting just over 1,000 teacher devices and approximately 8,000 student devices.

The third component of the levy was staffing to ensure devices and programs were running smoothly for student success.

“We want to emphasize that there is a cybersecurity element to all of this. We really value the privacy of student information,” Myers said.

The education technology director added that insurance costs for cybersecurity continue to rise, along with other factors within school districts.

An example Myers gave of something the district is considering investing in is “air-gap backups.” This is a server that is not connected to an existing network and allows the district to back up all of its data if the current server goes down.

The initial setup for a backup system is approximately $7,000, and licensing fees range from $5,000 to $6,000 annually. School districts do not have the funds to provide this safety measure.

“Times have changed, because every textbook, every license, everything…you can't go to school without being exposed to some type of technology,” Superintendent Rex Welts said.

All devices and programs used by the district require a license agreement. License agreements vary in cost depending on the level and content of the program's use.

The licensing agreement affects textbooks, online programs, and devices such as security cameras, key fobs, and door sensors that let faculty know when a door is opened or closed.

There are about 260 cameras in the district, most of them in middle and high schools.

There are no cameras in classrooms at these schools, but there are cameras in the hallways and outside the buildings. The elementary school also has cameras installed outside the building.

“What I would like to see is more cameras installed in primary schools because it would help when young children leave school premises with the wrong person. See who is coming and going. “It helps us do that,” Wertz said.

Hayes said technology knowledge is needed in today's workforce because technology touches every profession in some way.

He added that students need to take advantage of “21st century technology.”

Sonny Tapia is a criminal justice and education reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

Source link