Q: Are you sure that leasing your wide area network can be funded by the eRate? At the workshops I attended, some put on by eRate staff, we asked that question and got a big “NO.” If you have additional information on this issue, I’d be interested.

A: Funds for the creation of a WAN are not eligible for discount as “internal connections,” because that category only applies to the routers, hubs, switches, wiring, etc. within a single school building. <

But if you apply as a district and you lease lines from a telecommunications carrier to connect individual school buildings (such as T1 lines, for example), then you can qualify for a discount on the monthly line charges you pay to that carrier under the category “telecommunications service,” just as your monthly phone bill can be discounted under the same category. (The one-time “activation fee” for such leased lines also can discounted as a telecommunications service.)

This interpretation of the rules has been supported by the funding commitments that have been made for the 1998-99 funding year. For example, Ken Wasmund, director of technology for the Birmingham (Ala.) Public Schools, confirmed that his district will save $800,000 in discounts on leased line charges for the district’s WAN this year, based on his 1998 funding commitment decision letter from the SLD. And Milwaukee Public Schools, which is featured on page 1 of this issue, saved more than $3 million on the leased line charges and equipment for its WAN as well.

Q: If we go by our free and reduced school lunch program (from three school sites: elementary, middle, and high school), we are at a 37 percent discount. If we go by our free and reduced school breakfast program (from two school sites: elementary and middle school), we are up to a 51 percent discount. Is it okay to use the figures from the breakfast program?

A: Your district’s aggregate discount percentage must be calculated using the total percentage of the district’s students who are eligible for free and reduced lunches, which would include the high school students in the calculation as well.

But note that the rules say “eligible” students, not “participating” students. Because the theoretical calculation of your discount using just the elementary and middle school breakfast program is so much higher, it’s possible that many of your high school students may be eligible for free or reduced lunches, but either choose not to take them or don’t know they are eligible. (For many high school students, there’s a stigma attached to the free or reduced lunch program; others may just bring their lunches to school every day.) You can include any students who are eligible, but don’t participate, in your calculation, as long as you can support your figures.

One way to do that is to use the participation figures for your breakfast program to calculate the eligibility of high school students. (This assumes that both the breakfast and lunch programs have the same criteria for participation.) For example, for any child who participates in the breakfast program and who has a sibling in high school living in the same household, you can assume that the older sibling is eligible for the lunch program as well (because they have the same family income level). The SLD will accept this as proof of eligibility, if needed.

Q: With almost no time left, I am looking for simple sample technology plans for eRate filings. I’d also like to know the avenues in California for technology plan approval for private schools.

A: The SLD has a section on its web site that addresses technology plans:

http://www.slcfund.org/Reference/ techplans.asp

It includes a list of guidelines—areas you’ll want to cover with your plan—as well as questions and answers. While you have a great deal of flexibility in drafting a plan, it should address these five areas:

1. Establish clear goals and a realistic strategy for using telecommunications and information technology to improve education or library services.

2. Have a professional development strategy to ensure that staff know how to use the new technologies to improve education or library services.

3. Include an assessment of the telecommunication services, hardware, software, and other services that will be needed to improve education or library services.

4. Provide for a sufficient budget to acquire and maintain the hardware, software, professional development, and other services that will be needed to implement the strategy for improved education or library services.

5. Include an evaluation process that enables the school or library to monitor progress toward the specified goals and make mid-course corrections in response to new developments and opportunities as they arise.

The following resources may also be helpful in offering sample technology plans to use as models:

National Center for Technology Planning

http://www.nctp.com<

Excellence and Equity Technology Network<

http://www.rmcdenver.com/eetnet/default.htm

American Association of School Administrators’ technology planning resources

http://www.aasa.org/Issues/TechPlans/

As for approval of a private school plan, there’s information on the technology planning page of the SLD’s web site (URL above). Some state departments of education also approve private school plans. You might also check with any national or state private school agency, like the National Association of Independent Schools (http://www.nais.org), or you can contact the SLD’s help line at (888) 203-8100 if you have further questions.