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Education: District gets early start on tax-free weekend

South Carolina’s sales tax holiday starts Friday, and the Georgetown County School District will be among those taking advantage of the savings with a $2.2 million purchase of computer equipment. It will provide 1,800 students in grades six through 12 with a Dell laptop computer for the coming year.

The move toward online standardized tests by the state and changes in instruction prompted the move, said Patti Hammel, the district’s director of student performance. The district has about 3,200 desktop computers in its 18 schools, but there aren’t enough for students to take the mandated end-of-course exams at the same time, she said.

The decision to buy the computers now was sparked by the sales tax holiday and discounts offered by Dell at the end of its fiscal quarter. “You had to take advantage of that,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said.

The district will save $711,226, according to Lisa Johnson, the district finance director. That includes the sales tax and discounts from Dell.

Along with the laptops, the district will get 60 carts that will store the computers and act as wireless hubs. Students won’t be allowed to take the computers home, Hammel said.

The laptops will arrive later this month. District staff is putting together a plan for how they will be implemented in the curriculum. Although the district added funds this year for additional technology instruction, Hammel said she doesn’t think the students will have a long learning curve.

For teachers, the district will buy 260 laptops as the final phase of a three-year plan to provide every teacher with a laptop. The $544,832 price tag includes training.

Teachers at the Waccamaw schools will get 57 of the new laptops.

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