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Updated Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 3 PM EST

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RCS purchases buses,
iPad Airs with bonds

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Two purchases using voter-approved bond money will bring new buses and technology to Romeo Community Schools.
       On Nov. 18, the Board of Education voted 7-0 to purchasing 2,727 iPad Airs for elementary students using $2.4 million in technology bond funds. The resolution also approves of signing up with eSpark.
       The board also unanimously approved of spending $1.2 million of its new bus bond monies to purchase 12 new buses for the district.
       In November 2012, 50.5 percent of voters supported a $16.4 million technology bond that will put a personal learning device in the hands of every student and establish a wireless Internet network in the district.
       A year later, voters again approved of a bond, this time to raise $5.1 million to replace all 54 buses in the district's fleet. A total of 58.5 percent of voters that cast a ballot supported the bond.
       Residents saw the results of those votes as the board decided to purchase 32 gigabit iPad Airs for students in grades K-5. Administrators said the newest iPad tablet has advantages over older models such as faster processors, a better size and weight for students and free apps that the district already planned to purchase.
       Installed on the iPads will be the eSpark program, which provides improved learning by recommending apps for students to use in strengthening their math and English language arts skills.
       The iPad Airs cost $1.6 million, while the three-year eSpark enrollment will run $830,800.
       Board Treasurer Chris Giancarli said the remaining technology bond funds as well as future technology purchases were reviewed, and the iPad purchases fit within the parameters of the budget.
       "It's a pretty big expenditure, but it's carrying the recommendation of curriculum, the tech steering committee, finance and (Business Director David Massoglia)," he said.
       The iPads will take five to six weeks to arrive once an order is placed.
       Buying buses
       Transportation Director Frank Rydquist said the district is ordering 12 buses that should arrive in February.
       Rydquist said three types of buses will be purchased in the first round. These include four transit buses, four 71-passenger conventional buses and four special education units.
       The tentative replacement schedule has the 2015 model buses arriving in February. The buses must be manufactured before they are shipped out.
       He said the district will continue to use diesel buses, but will use clean diesel technology that complies with current emission standards. He said the fuel systems will be a step up from older models like those from 1998.
       "We could see gains as much as 20 percent on some of the units," Rydquist said.
       Similarly, all of the buses will have better heaters and insulation to warm them faster while using less idle time.
       A total of 32 buses will be replaced in the next three years that are 2003 models or older, while the remaining 22 buses will be addressed for the remainder of the bond's nine-year life. Superintendent Nancy Campbell has said the old buses will be sold or used for scrap parts.
       Board President Anita Banach indicated the next major area of interest for the board is facilities improvement. In July, the board discussed plans for having a facilities bond before voters in November 2014.
       "Our work is not finished, but we want you to feel very confident in the promises we've made with the bond issues you've given us," she said. "We're putting those monies into place and the kids are starting to see it."
       The board has requested updates about the buses and technology as the year progresses.
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