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County committee approves $5.8-million purchase agreement for WCS Chromebooks

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WCS Chromebook

Chromebooks have become all the more important for Williamson County Schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Williamson County Board of Commissioners Education Committee approved a lease purchase agreement Monday allowing Williamson County Schools to acquire nearly 20,000 Chromebooks over the next four years.

Since the start of the school year, WCS has relied on Chromebooks a little more than usual with students participating in the WCS Online program and remote school. Back in June, the county approved a $1.5-million Chromebook purchase, the first of four same-price annual payments which bought over 18,500 laptops for students as the district prepared for the return of school.

This time around, the zero-interest agreement commits the county to spending nearly $5.83 million for 15,791 devices over four years. Additionally, CARES Act funding will cover the purchase of an additional 4,065 Chromebooks.

WCS Director of Information Technology Tim McNeese and WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said the majority of these devices will replace existing laptops that are between five and seven years old, and the new ones are expected to last another five to six years.

"We're having some problems with some of the existing devices that we were planning on retiring. It's kind of what we anticipated," Golden said.

Some of the devices the district decided to continue using this year due to budget constraints "can't handle" the multimedia programs used for remote and online learning, McNeese said.

"The GPU — the graphics performance utilization — fails on them, and that is what's causing a problem," he said. "The newer ones have updated chips, newer chips, faster chips made for these types of multimedia programs and things that we're doing (instructionally), especially Zoom."

He also shared the district is anticipating an increase in student enrollment numbers for next semester and next year, and the lease agreement will also accommodate some of that expected growth.

The Williamson County Commission Budget Committee will vote on this purchase at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 5, followed by a vote by the full commission on Monday, Oct. 12.

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