Cybersecurity, Smart Boards, Chromebooks top New Milford schools’ technology requests

New Milford High School

New Milford High School

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

NEW MILFORD — New Milford schools are aiming to avoid any cybersecurity threats with a proposed upgrade to its technology system.

In the district’s technology five-year capital request, which totals about $478,000 for the 2022-2023 school year, the district’s interim technology director Jaime Terry said one way to prevent cybersecurity threats is to regularly replace firewalls when current hardware has met its end of life.

“If you let it lapse, you’re going to face security vulnerabilities,” she said.

To that end, she’s proposing a high availability firewall at a cost of $70,000.

Another security-related device on the budget is referred to as “hard tokens.”

This device would be provided to teachers so that before they access their district email, they would have to authenticate using this tool.

Hard tokens are estimated at $17,000 for 600 devices.

Terry also proposes wireless controllers, for $30,000.

“These controllers are the brains of getting the wireless across your district,” Terry said. “If these go beyond their end of life, there is security vulnerabilities but you also risk your internet service not being available to your students in their classrooms.”

For some items on the technology budget, the district is eligible for an E-rate grant, which is a federal program that works to ensure schools and libraries have access to affordable telecommunications and information services.

Chromebooks

A request for student Chromebooks as part of the five-year proposal is listed at about $204,000.

The current Chrombooks in the district all expire by 2024 in terms of lifespan and the district is “severely low on stock” of these devices, Terry said.

To that end, the district has been sharing devices.

“Schools are sharing equipment of anything available to make sure students aren’t left without a device, so that they can continue their education,” she said.

She added the devices warranties have expired, meaning repairs can take longer and be more expensive.

“If you wanted to bring these devices into warranty for one year, it is about $95,000, so that is over $300,000 if we wanted to get these into warranty through 2024,” she said. “I would not recommend that.”

Instead she recommends starting a “refresh plan” beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

“The cost is about $200,000 but you purchase a warranty with those and you make it another four years,” she said.

Families can have the option to purchase insurance for their devices for themselves.

Tech packs, Smart Boards, projectors

Tech packs, which are used for kindergartners and newly enrolled students, are listed in the plan for $39 each. Every student is provided with a case, a mouse and a pair of headphones.

Neither the case nor headphones can be reused if a student leaves the school and returns the tech pack, due to the ongoing pandemic.

Additionally, Terry said the Smart Boards and projectors in all classrooms are in poor shape and should be replaced.

“This is going to be a very large project for your district and definitely one that needs to get started,” said Terry, adding “it takes a very long time to get a project like this implemented.”

She said these devices are at the end of their life. “If you walk into some of the classrooms, the visibility is very poor,” she said. “The screens look white. It’s very hard to see what’s actually on the screen.”

Additionally, in the lower grades, the interactive touch functionalities of the Smart Boards don’t work, she said.

On the projectors, bulb replacements are an ongoing supply need in the budget.

“The projectors are also aged and are over ten years old, so they are overheating,” she said.

To replace or repair those items, Terry recommends a “phased-in” approach. The capital request for them is $35,000, which would cover 15 boards to be replaced each year.

Project Lead the Way

Engineering desktops for Project Lead the Way, an engineering curriculum for students, is also a budget item.

“The engineering curriculum utilizes industry-based software. This is high powered software that has to have specific hardware needs so the software can operate properly,” Terry said.

The total replacement costs for labs is listed as $75,000.

A detailed five-year technology capital budget breakdown can be found on the New Milford Board of Education website. The full New Milford Board of Education will review the capital plan in January and make changes, if necessary, at that time.