Wake school employees are getting new computers with purchase of 17,000 laptops

Wake County teachers will get new computers from the school district to replace their aging devices.

The Wake County school board approved a proposal Tuesday to pay $16.25 million to purchase 17,000 Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga laptop computers. The computers will be given to employees starting in early 2020.

Marlo Gaddis, Wake’s chief technology officer, said computers will be given to school employees who need them. That includes teachers, teaching assistants, central office employees and clerical staff.

The district hasn’t replaced its staff computers since 2014 and 2015, Gaddis said. She said some district computers are so old, they can’t run some programs and use operating systems that no longer will be supported.

In addition, Gaddis said student data will be safer on district computers instead of employees’ personal computers.

The money for the new devices comes from the district’s capital improvement program, which voters helped fund when they approved a $548 million school construction bond referendum in 2018. School officials say the money for the new laptops isn’t being paid for from bond money, though.

Gaddis said Wake saved money by buying the laptops in bulk.

Wake put out a request for bids over the summer, receiving five proposals before recommending the new Lenovo computers.

Some people complained online Tuesday that the $16.25 million should have gone toward other things, such as giving employee raises. The school district responded that capital funds aren’t allowed to be used for salaries.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.