Although it's going to cost considerably more than planned, it's a necessary expenditure.

That was the gist of the conversation at Monday's Decorah School Board meeting surrounding the approval of a high school computer network infrastructure upgrade bid.

The low bid, submitted by Communication Engineering Company (CEC) of Hiawatha, came in at $440,107, 25 percent above the architect's original estimate for the equipment. The cost of the installation will be a separate expenditure.

"We want to be good stewards of that money, but we also understand that a need has been established. While it may hurt, I think in the long run if we don't upgrade our system, it's going to affect the learning of our students," said Board President Melanie Tietz.

District Director of Information, Systems and Technology Kurt DeVore explained one of the biggest tasks the District will accomplish with this expenditure is the addition of wireless (Internet) access points at the high school.

"We currently have about 20, and we will be going up to 50. That covers every classroom, two in the gym and two in the commons," said DeVore.

DeVore explained this upgrade will help the high school achieve a "one-to-one" situation, meaning the school will gain enough wireless access points for each student, ninth through twelfth grade, to use a computer at the same time.

With regard to the other buildings, DeVore said the District would review their needs next summer after the high school project is completed.

When Board Member Brian Petersburg asked where the District came up with the original estimate for the project, Haluska said the $1.2 million for the entire infrastructure upgrade came from StruXtures, the District's architect.

For this portion, however, Haluska said he "shortshot" the number, so the District didn't have to borrow any additional funds for the project.

"Instead of borrowing the money, we can use the money we have on hand and that has nothing to do with the general fund or additional allowable growth - that's money that's been put in savings that we can use for this," said Haluska.

Board Member Rick Valley said he wished to make clear that the District has the money to spend and that the expenditure would not require any additional tax levy.

Petersburg said while he is concerned about the bottom line, he understands that technology is something the District needs.

"There are two things we've been told about a successful one-to-one situation: Make sure your infrastructure is there, and make sure you do professional development," said DeVore.

"Basically, we're buying equipment here. We're buying the infrastructure equipment and electronic equipment. It's equipment we need to install. We could have spent it all on furniture, and then where would be?" asked Board Member John Hjelle.

DeVore said he hoped to have estimates on the next phase of the upgrade, the installation, within a few days.