A $300,000 donation from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation will result in improved educational technology being purchased soon for the Howe Sound School District.
The funds were presented last week to School District No. 48 and Superintendent Lisa McCullough said the school parent advisory councils will match the funds, and may even exceed it, and the board has also allocated a surplus of $150,000 towards the area’s technology fund.
“We are just so grateful and so excited about that injection of funding,” McCullough said. “We know that kids need access to information now and it is through technology that they get access to that information.”
WB Foundation Executive Director Mei McCurdy said the group receives various donation request from schools and PACS, but wanted to make a more significant donation.
“We wanted to make a more significant donation that will improve the quality of technology for our students, help reduce the burden on public school budgets and help better prepare our children with the tools they need when they graduate,” McCurdy said in a release. “Our first priority is to help improve the lives of children and youth in the Sea to Sky corridor and we hope this grant will go a long way to reaching that goal.”
The school board is in the midst of several strategic planning initiatives. That includes a plan for the board itself and an education plan, which McCullough said will be called Pathways to Learning.
Part of that education plan, however, is an overall technology plan for the entire school district.
“A technology plan is far bigger than just how to spend money, it is also about how to create a sustainable model for the district,” McCullough said.
There were some concerns that with that plan not expected until the end of the school year, the WB funds would be sitting in a bank account on hold.
Director of instruction Peter Jory in charge of technology for the district, said Wednesday (Nov. 14) that is not the case.
“We are not waiting for the new input process or the strategic plan,” Jory said. “We can’t wait for that to get going … it needs to start now.”
He said with the funding from WB in place he expects all schools in the district to have wireless Internet access and the district to purchase 320 laptops by the end of the year.
Other educational technology the funds will go towards include servers, tablets and projectors.
“We have a concept about going more mobile and going towards laptops and tablets but this will be an evolving conversation,” Jory said, adding to apply for the funding the district had to submit a deployment strategy on how the money would be spent.
Now the job is to look at procurement, training for the technology that is purchased and support services.
He said the funding from the foundation has created excitement in the schools and interest in efforts to match the $300,000 and give a big boost to the technology available to students.
“This is an opportunity to get out of a bit of a hole in technology and move forward and that is exciting,” Jory said. “Really what the power of this grant is it has kick started a real movement to get tech into our schools in a really cohesive and pervasive way.”