The New Richmond School Board approved a proposal to stop paying all convenience and transaction fees associated with credit cards when used to pay online for school products, programs or services at their meeting Monday, March 20.
The decision reverses the current arrangement where the district absorbs those fees.
Currently four school departments accept online credit card payments: School grounds and SOAR farm sales; Tiger Pack; school nutrition meals; and UW-River Falls dual credit tuition payments. To date for the 2022-23 school year, those departments have paid out a total of $51,687.40 in fees.
As the district continues to increase the number of programs and activities that can be paid for online with a credit card, those fees will continue to increase taking away dollars that could be used to benefit those programs.
“These are charges that the district is absorbing for families choosing to pay with credit cards online. These are dollars these programs aren't getting because of these convenience charges,” Director of Fiscal and Building Operations Kris Brown said.
The district will continue to accept cash or checks for payment should families so choose to avoid paying convenience fees.
The change will go into effect at the beginning of the district’s next fiscal year on July 1, 2023.
Board members approved a bid by CDW-G worth $284,812.50 to purchase 750 Chromebooks.
The purchase is the first step being implemented by Brown’s office to establish a regular rotation of Chromebooks to provide all students with current, reliable technology throughout their education experience.
“As part of our yearly replacement process, our oldest chromebooks need to be replaced when Google will no longer support them,” Brown said.
The district currently has 2,600 devices in service between students and staff.
The plan projects the useful life of a Chromebook is four years. The plan calls for replacing a student’s device every four years.
By replacing Chromebooks at the rate of 750 per year, the district will have completely replaced its outdated technology by 2027. Continuing to budget for and replace 750 chrome books per year will ensure that students will continue to have reliable technology throughout their education.
“This is in our budget and it has to be moving forward. This is about our replacement cycles and making sure that we are prepared for the future so that we don’t have to rely on grants and other one-time monies to determine what we can purchase. We are building this into our new normal,” Brown said.
Wireless access point upgrade
Board members approved a bid from Heartland Business Systems to replace existing and add new Wireless Access Points throughout the district including exterior fields and common areas at the high school and middle school for a total of $594,862.27.
The upgrade will place a wireless access point to the district’s internal network in every classroom in every building including exterior fields and common areas at the high school and middle school doubling the district’s capacity and creating a robust wireless network capable of serving its more than 2,600 Chromebooks for years to come.
Two years ago the district’s IT department began the upgrade by moving existing access points from the high school and middle school to the elementary buildings. The high school and middle schools then received new access points.
Wiring for the upgrade is expected to be completed this summer in time for the start of school next fall.
The district intends to fund the upgrade through eRate with the Universal Service Administrative Company. If successful, the district will be reimbursed for 60% of the project or $356,917.36. The district would be responsible for the balance of $237,944.91.
Board members were treated to a performance of “Java Jive” by the high school Vocal Jazz Ensemble directed by music director Jodi Mealey.
It is possible Mealey wears more hats than any other instructor at the high school. She is director of choirs, including the concert choir, show choir and vocal jazz ensemble,
auditorium manager, music department head, vocal music director, choreographer and drama director, responsible for theater productions.
Superintendent Troy Miller announced the district has hired Focus Consulting and CEO Kristin Wiersma to lead its strategic planning process. Miller and his staff are in the early stages of organizing a plan for community outreach. The plan is expected to be completed by the time school starts in August.
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