Frederick County Public Schools spent nearly $1.1 million in fiscal 2014 in a push to provide laptops to middle school students countywide this school year, officials said at a Tuesday press conference.

About 2,300 Dell Chromebooks were delivered to the county's 13 public middle schools, Frederick Classical Charter School, Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School and the Heather Ridge School at a total cost of $790,000.

Overall spending also covered tablets, storage carts, software licenses and staff learning programs. Tom Saunders, instructional director of middle schools, said they hope to bring tablets to middle school fine arts programs in December as well.

The school system finished rolling out wireless Internet infrastructure in each building this month, a slight delay from its expected completion in August. School officials plan to continue their "one-to-one" technology initiative, which aims to give a digital device to each student, in high schools in 2015-16 and elementary schools in 2017-18. 

That expansion will be funded through future county budgets, outside grant money and donations. The Board of County Commissioners funded $1 million of the school system's requested $6 million in one-time money for technology initiatives in fiscal 2015, as well as similar allocations in previous years.

At its meeting tonight, the county school board is expected to vote to accept a $500,000 state grant that would provide for more than 1,300 Chromebooks in sixth-grade English and science classrooms. 

Saunders hopes to avoid sending middle schoolers to high schools that lack the same devices, calling it a step backward.

"How do we continue this momentum?" Saunders asked. "We need to really make sure we're providing that for our high school students."

Tech staff will work with teachers and administrators to better understand their new resources and work out elementary school kinks that have left some principals in the dark about how to log into their Wi-Fi at all. 

Students are not yet allowed to bring devices home, but technology infrastructure director Derek Root would eventually like to start a checkout system.

The biggest challenge so far is growing the school system's bandwidth, the rate at which a website or Internet service can transfer data to a computer, as more users get online, he said. The system will bump up its Web access and speed capabilities by 50 percent today.

Root plans to request about $30,000 in additional fiscal 2016 funds for more bandwidth as more people tap into the system.

"Computer labs are going away," County Commissioner Billy Shreve said. "Every classroom will be a computer lab."

Follow Rachel S. Karas on Twitter: @rachelkaras.

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