GUSTINE – The Gustine Unified School District is investing CARES Act funds to significantly upgrade its backbone technology infrastructure and upgrade classroom technology.
Dr. Bryan Ballenger, GUSD superintendent, said the expenditures are necessary to meet the immediate technology demands of distance learning but also equip district teachers and classrooms with state-of-the-art technology which will enhance learning when in-person instruction fully resumes.
“This is where we had wanted to get eventually,” Ballenger commented. “It got sped up.”
The school board, at its Nov. 18 meeting, authorized the expenditures of more than $325,000 in CARES Act funding to bolster its network of servers and switches and to purchase projectors, screens and document cameras for classrooms lacking that equipment.
“We utilized our CARES Act (coronavirus relief funds) money that expires on Dec. 30,” he explained. “Our network infrastructure desperately needs this. The nice thing is that we have the resources to meet this need. We otherwise would have had to wait until other funding was available.”
Ballenger acknowledged that the demands of distance learning have at times taxed the existing network and restricted capabilities.
In October, the board approved a $225,000 expenditure for the purchases of upgraded laptops and dual monitors for teachers – giving each three independent screens on which to work.
The multiple screens, Ballenger said by way of example, allow teachers to have their Zoom platform up on one monitor while viewing student screens and additional applications on others.
“We can provide a more robust hybrid learning environment,” he commented. “Now, across the district, we have set a standard for equipment. All of the rooms have identical equipment.”
The district has expended CARES Act funds for a variety of other purposes as well.
At its Nov. 18 meeting, the board approved the purchase of tables, chairs and canopies for several sites to enable social distancing when more traditional lunch periods return.
“When we do have more students return and they are at lunch and breakfast, our cafeterias are not big enough,” Ballenger told Mattos Newspapers. “Even bringing kids in for multiple lunch periods we don’t have enough space to socially distance. If we are going to expand the number of students on campus and extend the school day, we need to make sure that we have the space available for them to socially distance.”
Those purchases, which were for Romero Elementary, Gustine Elementary and Gustine Middle School.