Cassville schools get $190K in tech upgrades
eRate program covered 80 percent of bill
The Cassville school district recently got $190,000 worth of technical upgrades to the school, but only had to pay a fraction of the cost -- 25 percent.
"The project was eRate funded," said Richard Asbill, superintendent. "Most all school districts qualify at some level for this federal program. In the past, eRate would only fund a portion of our district technology and communication needs, basically paying for some of our phone and Internet service. This would be pretty common for each school district.
"The level of funding you receive is based on your funding level or category level, which is also based on the free/reduced rate for the district. If you have a high free/reduced rate, you likely qualify for more funding. We have not qualified for the Category I areas."
Asbill said as a district, they applied for the funding, including a proposal for the Category I projects.
"Ours was the network, wireless, firewall and communication infrastructure upgrade," he said. "We were approved. We are responsible for 25 percent of the cost, so it is like a grant with a local match."
Asbill said eRate has had some revisions over the last year due to the reauthorization process, so some of the criteria changed for different levels and categories of funding.
"They are also limited or reducing the levels of funding for basic services, like phone and Internet communications," he said.
Shelley Henderson, instructional technology coach for Cassville, said eRate is a program through the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) that provides reimbursement to schools and libraries on telecommunications, Internet, data and related equipment, based on student free/reduced lunch percentages.
"My main job is to serve as a liaison between teachers and technology staff," she said. "Cassville is an 80-percent school district, which means we get reimbursement of 80 percent of approved USAC funds. Last year, under Category 2, Cassville was reimbursed $193,804.51 for expenditures totaling $241,508.00."
"Technology upgrades that were purchased with these funds include new wireless infrastructure for the entire school district," said Errick Fuchs, technology director for the district. "This increases the number of devices that can connect in each room and increases the connection speed. This upgrade was needed to support the 1:1 Initiative of having Chromebooks for each third- through 12th-grade student.
"In addition, we were able to purchase a firewall, which helps keep faculty and student data secure. Lastly, we received nine Uninterruptible Power Supplies, which keeps critical servers and switches up and running in case of a power outage."