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D-157 to require tech buys

RICHMOND – In Ryan Carlson’s biology class, small groups of students gather around computers to input data and make graphs.

The data collection software, which the district purchased two years ago, has translated to a 1.5 point increase in the average ACT problem-solving score for Richmond-Burton High School students, he said.

But, Carlson told the District 157 school board, only one student at a time can be actively engaged, and he wants every student to have that opportunity.

The one-to-one technology program can make that possible, he said.

The program was unanimously approved by the board at its Wednesday meeting after a two-year planning process.

The approval means that each year, starting this fall, freshmen at Richmond-Burton Community High School will be required to purchase Chromebooks, a Google product that falls between a tablet and laptop. It has a keyboard like a laptop but doesn’t have the same kind of operating system, which can be susceptible to viruses and can get bogged down.

Staff members will also be provided with the devices and training this year.

District 157 is one of many area school districts making the transition to one-to-one. Marengo District 154 is in the first year of its transition.

The district decided against providing students already at the high school with the devices, Technology Services Director Dale Harkness said. None of the technology currently at the school will be taken away.

“This is a model that most districts have taken on, especially at the high school level,” he said. “It’s been much more effective as a phase-on…. I really do think it has to do with, as these students get older –junior, senior year especially – they’re starting to think more about the future. Changing their learning environment at that point is more difficult to do.”

The cost per Chromebook will be $280, which was originally to be split over four years, but Board Vice President John Schleibinger suggested that parents be given the opportunity to pay the total cost upfront so it meets the minimum to be tax-deductible. The cost includes the device, a case, headphones and an expanded battery pack.

Students who enter the district later will have to cover the full cost over the shorter period of time, Harkness said.

The students will be able to take the devices home with them each day and over the summer, and when they graduate, they’ll be able to keep them.

The district will have to make infrastructure improvements, including more than doubling the Internet access points and expanding the bandwidth, to handle the increased number of devices.

Infrastructure improvements are estimated to cost just under $35,000, Superintendent Dan Oest said. The total cost over four years, including device purchases, is expected to be about $200,000. Other costs, including professional development, are estimated at $37,000.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Harkness said. “Coming up here, we’re going to be doing a lot of professional development with staff, reworking some of our curriculum to really make sure this device is infused in the classroom environment and not just kind of an add-on.”

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