In a special called meeting Tuesday evening, the Marietta Board of Education adopted the fiscal 2021 budget and approved special purchases for technologies to enhance online-only learning this fall.
Superintendent Grant Rivera recommended the board adopt the fiscal 2021 general fund budget. District Chief Financial Officer Erin Franklin said the budget is balanced with total revenues and expenditures matching at about $110 million.
The board voted unanimously, 6-0, to adopt the budget. The superintendent then turned his attention to the tools needed to facilitate virtual learning.
Rivera recommended approving the purchase of one-year Zoom educational licenses. According to district Deputy Superintendent Belinda Walters-Brazile, the licenses would be a one-time purchase. Walters-Brazile said Rivera’s recommendation is to purchase 800 Zoom educational licenses to cover all classroom teachers in the district.
Walters-Brazile said the district used Schoology and Zoom when it transitioned to virtual learning in March, and it has continued to do all professional training on those platforms this summer.
“What we would like to do is offer our teachers, families and students the consistency of having two platforms moving forward for the academic year,” Walters-Brazile said. “We realize that, even when we transition back to school, we may have students who need to stay in the virtual environment, we may ... have to shut down a classroom for 14 days, so we feel like this is something that we will utilize throughout this year.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the $28,800 license purchase, funded by grant funds. The licenses will allow schools to host up to 300 users, large enough to hold virtual PTA meetings and other virtual gatherings.
In addition to the Zoom licenses, the board unanimously approved Rivera’s recommendation to purchase up to $54,000 of wireless internet hotspots to improve equity of technology access for students.
“We’re asking for the initial purchase of 100 hot spots,” said district Chief Operations Officer Chuck Gardner. “And, just so you know kind of where that number is coming from, we have 90 families that are new enrollees, either kindergarten or another grade, that are coming to us that have already said in their registration they do not have internet access.”
According to Gardner, some families still have hot spot devices they received in the spring term, and the district will purchase more hot spots as needed. He said the Georgia Department of Education negotiated a discounted rate for hot spots through Verizon.
The board took on other policy changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, unanimously approving temporary updates to the student attendance policy and school visitors policy.
Under the newly approved attendance policy, the school board acknowledged “it may be necessary to adjust attendance protocol on a temporary basis for compliance purposes and to protect student and staff health and safety.”
Under the new visitor policy, school visitors will be restricted to parents and guardians of current students, other family members of current students who are approved by parents and guardians or other individuals approved by the school or district for official business. Visitors must sign in at the school office.
The school board also unanimously approved the launch of an online Marietta High School mask sale fundraiser. The high school will sell two types of masks online at mariettafacemasks.itemorder.com/sale, an athletic gaiter style mask worn around the neck and a face mask with ear loops.
“I normally bring these to you in the fall, but the high school has asked if I will bring this a little bit early just because of the nature of the item,” Walters-Brazile said of the fundraiser. “They would like to go ahead and conduct a virtual fundraiser where they’re doing both the gaiter and the mask, and make it available where students can purchase this as an online fundraiser for them. They’ll be customized and very specific to Marietta.”
The gaiter style mask, priced at $12.95, features the Marietta Blue Devils logo. The face mask, priced at $12.50, features a white “M” and is inscribed with “BLUE DEVILS” across the middle. According to district documents, the high school will make $4.50 per mask.