At Monday’s School Committee meeting, Watertown School officials detailed how they used an infusion of nearly $1 million it received from the town budget last spring.
The one-time funds were provided as a boost to the curriculum. The money went to upgrade technology and to update curriculum materials, said Assistant Superintendent Dari Donovan. The district received $210,000 from the Fiscal 2014 budget and $750,000 from the Fiscal 2015 budget.
Due to tight budgets, curriculum materials have not been updated in some time, Donovan said.
“The amount of materials (we have been able to purchase) has been a true boon at a time when teachers could not buy one more thing,” Donovan said.
The schools spent more than $636,000 on materials for a wide range of subjects, including English, math, science, social studies, world language, health & wellness, and music & art.
Teachers tried to spend the money wisely and find deals. One example, Donovan said, is the purchase of a 2004 edition of biology books instead of the 2014 edition because the cost was $33 lower and the material was essentially the same.
The money allowed the schools to refresh and update curriculum materials in the core subjects “so they are in for the new demands for the curriculum,” Donovan said. “I consider those to be dollars that touch every child. That is a lot of money and we are very thankful.”
About $23,000 went to new technology for the classroom, including 30 Chromebooks and a cart for them, 11 iPads with 1o stands and 8 cases and five sets of five iPods.
Another chunk went to improving the school’s technology to get ready for the new PARCC standardized test, which will be taken on computers. The district spent more than $97,000 on headphones, new laptop batteries, power adapters, memory upgrades network adapters and software.
“PARCC has put a lot of demand on individual school districts to ready themselves to take those exams on a computer,” Donovan said.
Some of the FY 2014 funds were used to update all of those technologies to take the PARCC test.
“We are not yet ready. It is a very large task to enable all our students to be tested on a computer 2-3 times a year,” Donovan said. “We are on the path, but we are not there yet.”
Students will be taking the test using paper and pencil this year until the district can ensure they can be taken on computers without glitches, Donovan said.
Money also went to the special education, career technology, English Language Learner (formerly ESL) and other programs, she said.