This fall, students across School District 8 (SD8) have been given access to new tech under the Student Laptops for Success initiative.
Earlier this year, SD8 approved the lease of 810 laptops for students in Grades 7 to 10 across the district.
According to SD8 Chair Lenora Trenaman, the aim of the initiative is to support students by providing equal access and opportunity to modern, portable devices.
The costs of the initiative for the 2021/22 school year totalled $230,000, funded by the ministry of education. Students will continue to use the same devices for three years, at which point they will be returned to the provider.
Trustee Allan Gribbin, a Creston resident, took issue with the original quote of $750,000 in February and was the only board member to vote against the initiative.
He proposed an amendment to the motion that the approval of the costs be delayed to examine the implications of the purchase and explore other options available to SD8. The motion was defeated, and the purchase approved.
Gribbin also disagreed with the laptop procurement process and was critical of SD8 for not approaching local businesses in the bidding process.
The procurement was overseen by Focused Education, a group formed specifically to facilitate joint buying processes for districts. SD8 teamed up with other school districts in order to increase purchasing power and fill their shared needs.
“Other districts were also looking to purchase laptops and a joint process was appropriate in the circumstances,” said Trenaman.
Gribbin has expressed his own disapproval of the process and insists that local businesses should have been given an opportunity to bid on the contracts.
In a previous article published in the Advance on Nov. 4, Gribbin was misquoted as saying that under SD8 policy “he believed the laptops were required to be purchased directly from local businesses.”
In his column published on the Advance website on April 19, he stated “one of the first procedures that the school district is expected to follow is to ‘purchase locally, whenever and wherever possible’ as long as we are getting similar value for money.”
When asked for further clarification, Trenaman said that Policy 642 and Administrative Procedure 642.1 “do not preclude local businesses from bidding.”
“The FocusEd is open to all vendors,” she said. “(These policies) clearly state that in order to procure goods and services, the school district should, whenever practical, join in co-operative purchasing with other school districts or agencies to take advantage of lower prices for bulk purchasing and to reduce the administrative costs in tendering.”
Lectric Avenue, an electronics store on Main Street in Creston, has asked for future consideration in bids for electronic equipment.
“We were never contacted by the school to offer a bid, but we would’ve liked to, for sure,” said managing partner Ian Richardson.
Lectric Avenue is part of the larger corporation Simply Computing and is also an Apple-authorized retailer.
“It’s not as little as people think,” said Richardson. “We purchase through the three biggest distributors in Canada, which is Synnex, Ingram Micro, and Tech Data. I’m sure we could’ve given a competitive quote and negotiated with our distributors for discounts too,.”