The Burbank School Board approved on Thursday to spend about $1.5 million to build a new data center this summer that will serve as the heart of the district's expanding technological infrastructure.

The school district originally planned to spend about $750,000 to upgrade the data center earlier this school year, but the board considered doubling that amount under a recent proposal presented by Charles Poovakan, director of information technology for Burbank Unified.

"I do think that moving forward with the data center is in the best interest of the district," Poovakan said.

The proposal includes expanding the workstations, making upgrades to the mechanical and electrical systems and purchasing an up-to-date cooling system while adding an additional rack to store computer and network equipment.

Other improvements include making the restrooms in the data center handicapped-accessible as well as altering the slope leading to the building for easier access for people in wheelchairs.

The project will be paid for using about $1.1 million in Measure S bond funds and about $400,000 from a special reserve fund.

School board member Larry Applebaum said a resident asked him how he could justify spending so much money on the data center — a question similar to one that fellow member Dave Kemp received weeks ago asking how the data center would benefit students.

On Thursday, Applebaum said the district has set aside up to $16 million to purchase items such as tablets, smart boards and other technical equipment in the future.

But none of that technology can be purchased for the classrooms without a comprehensive data center.

He said he replied to the resident, in part, by saying, "At the end of the day, if we don't have the basic backbone of a system, all of that money can't be spent, because we can't support it," he said. "If you don't have the infrastructure in place, you're never going to be able to implement the plan."

Fellow board member Ted Bunch said he agreed with Applebaum's remarks.

Board member Charlene Tabet was concerned the expansion of the data center would displace other workers in the district's facilities warehouse, but Craig Bell, director of facilities, said no one would be forced to move.

"It's really putting us in a position to do spring house-cleaning that is many, many years long overdue and is better utilizing our larger part of the warehouse as well," Bell said.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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