Money was on the minds of North Pike school board members at their first meeting of the year.

Trustees heard a presentation from district consultants on federal E-Rate funding.

The Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program helps school districts afford high-capacity telecommunications and internet access.

The program is funded by a fee paid by major telecommunications companies who provide services across state or national lines. School districts with higher rates of poverty or that are considered to be rural generally receive more assistance than urban or affluent districts.

Representatives James Dunaway and Gale Price of NewPath Strategy Consultants of Jackson told trustees North Pike is eligible for monies earmarked for technology upgrades through the federal E-Rate program.

“There is considerable E-Rate funding available to the district,” Price said.

Price said the district will need to act quickly in filing for fund eligibility because the filing window is fast approaching.

NewPath is subcontracted by the school district to provide technology services and to prepare E-Rate filings with the federal government on behalf of the district.

The district has about $370,000 of available funds through E-Rate and is working with NewPath to build a request for proposals to upgrade routers, switches, Wi-Fi access points and wiring centers in an attempt to improve district bandwidth.

The district needs to schedule as much work as possible in order to meet that figure, thereby making the most efficient use of the funding allocation.

“(We’re) building an RFP for infrastructure upgrades that will get us to that number,” Superintendent Dennis Penton said.

The next step in the process is for the district to solicit bids for the planned upgrades. North Pike will be responsible for contributing a 20% match on the value of the work, which works out to about $74,000, Penton said.

The government won’t reimburse the district for the value of the bid but will instead deal directly with the chosen firm, then will collect the 20% owed by North Pike.

The $300,000 sum is based on a per-pupil allocation and all figures are estimates, Penton said, but the total cost will not exceed the estimated amount.

In other news, Penton told trustees the Mississippi Department of Education awarded the school district its accreditation and noted no deficiencies.

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