LI districts score big in $44M Smart Schools round

Future so bright...: Upgraded classroom technology is just part of the Smart Schools plan.

Roughly $13 million in technology upgrades are coming to 11 Long Island school districts through the state’s $2 billion Smart Schools program – including the two largest individual awards doled out this funding round.

Funds besting $12.88 million for Island schools are part of about $44 million spread over 65 Smart Schools Investment Plans announced this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, marking the latest funding round through the Smart Schools Bond Act approved by voters in 2014. Smart Schools is designed to close the “digital divide” by ensuring balanced education-technology investments across the state, equipping students with the skills they’ll need to compete in the 21st century global economy regardless of their district’s relative economic wealth.

The top statewide winner this round is the Freeport Union Free School District, which was awarded more than $3.12 million for school-connectivity and classroom-technology upgrades.

Balancing act: Smart Schools initiative levels the field for all New York students, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Also cracking the $3 million plateau this round is the North Babylon UFSD, which will earmark $1.89 million for classroom tech and roughly $1.1 million for new connectivity efforts.

The top off-Island award this round went to the Saratoga Springs City School District, which received more than $2.73 million to fund classroom-tech ($1.91 million) connectivity ($475,905) and data-security ($343,975) initiatives.

Other big Long Island winners this round include the Miller Place UFSD ($1.89 million), the Long Beach City School District ($1.74 million) and the Center Moriches UFSD (1.03 million). In addition to classroom and connectivity upgrades, Miller Place will use $1.4 million to wire up its pre-K programs, while Center Moriches will pour $130,000 into high-tech security upgrades.

Security is also on the mind of the East Islip and Mattituck-Cutchogue UFSDs. East Islip, which was awarded a total of $625,228, will put $54,000 into high-tech security – the remainder of its Smart Schools stipend is earmarked for connectivity efforts – while Mattituck-Cutchogue will secure its data with $53,228 in security upgrades, in addition to investments in connectivity ($265,790) and new classroom tech ($212,562).

Also scoring Smart Schools funding this round: the Huntington ($480,157), Elmont ($386,928), Lindenhurst ($265,918) and Shelter Island ($57,876) UFSDs.

All told, the roughly $44 million round invests $27.1 million in statewide classroom-technology purchases, $10.4 million in statewide school-connectivity projects, $3.5 million in statewide high-tech security efforts and $2.9 million in the construction of statewide pre-kindergarten classrooms.

It also includes the approval of four Special Education Smart Schools Investment plans, with about $176,000 earmarked for special-ed tech, connectivity and security protocols, according to Cuomo’s office.

A full list of the January 2017 Smart Schools awardees is available here.

“The Smart Schools Bond act has played a critical role in expanding educational opportunity by helping schools modernize outdated classrooms,” the governor said in a statement announcing the new funding round. “This funding ensures that all of New York’s students – no matter their ZIP code – have access to the technology that has become so essential to modern education.”

The first funding round of 2017 follows multiple funding rounds announced in 2016, including more than $10 million for Long Island school districts to invest in connectivity, classroom-tech and data-security initiatives. Funding is awarded by the Smart Schools Review Board based on a competitive application process.

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