BHS donation

JoEllen Maras of Washington County Bank, center, poses for a photo with Blair Community Schools Supt. Randy Gilson, left, and school board president Kari Loseke. Washington County Bank donated $26,000 to allow the district to complete its 1-to-1 computer device program.

Nearly every student in Blair Community Schools (BCS) will have a computer in their hands during the 2019-20 school year thanks in part to a donation from Washington County Bank.

The bank donated $26,000 to allow BCS to start a 1-to-1 computer initiative at Blair High School. The BCS Board of Education accepted the donation during its regular meeting Monday.

“It's a pivotal moment in our district in moving forward,” Supt. Randy Gilson said. “I can't thank Washington County Bank enough and (bank president) Terry Dutton enough. It's huge for us. It's a game changer.”

Eighty-seven percent of schools in Nebraska have a 1-to-1 initiative, Gilson said. However, Blair was not one of them. Previously, the district only had a pilot program for eighth grade.

In April, the school board approved the upgrade and purchase of computers in kindergarten through eighth grade. Funds from the K-5 fun run fundraiser, which totaled $50,000, were to be used to purchase the devices. There will be eight devices per classroom in grades K-2, while every student in 3-8 will have a computer.

During a board finance committee meeting, Business Manager Tom Shearer reported the district paid $116,620 out of the activity and student fee funds to purchase the Chromebooks.

But there weren't any funds for the high school. That's where Washington County Bank stepped in.

"Sometimes a need is brought to our attention and we recognize it as an opportunity to not only help a great project get off the ground, but also as a way to make a big impact in our community,” Dutton said in a news release from the school district. “The Chromebook initiative is exactly one of those situations where we didn't think twice about stepping in to help.  Washington County Bank will always support Blair Community Schools and we are excited for the opportunities this program will provide students for years to come.”

Gilson said the computers are a valuable asset for students and teachers.

“It's a tool that I think is essential in education,” he said. “It provides opportunities in the classroom immediately.”

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