District 158 introduces tablet protection fee for parents

HUNTLEY – District 158 parents can now guard against broken tablets brought home by their kids for a small annual fee and save on repair costs, the district board decided Thursday.

Administrators proposed the voluntary, $25 annual protection fee after hearing concerns from parents about paying hefty repair costs for dropped or damaged tablets. The $500 digital machines have replaced textbooks in some schools for the last two years.

“A $50 textbook is a little less risk than having a $500 tablet,” Superintendent John Burkey said. “What we are proposing to do with this is essentially offer tablet insurance for families.”

Nearly 6,000 students from Huntley District 158 are expected to be using tablets by the upcoming school year. The district started the digital transformation at Martin Elementary last school year and have since expanded the tablets to its elementary and middle schools.

The $25 insurance fee would cover all repairs and damage to a student’s tablet. Only 3 percent of the district’s total supply have needed repairs since officials started converting to tablets, said Chief Financial Officer Mark Altmayer.

If enough parents agree to pay, the collected fees also would help replace older tablets in future years, Altmayer said.

But some board members questioned how the district would administer and manage the protection program.

Administrators said they still are creating procedures for the program but wanted direction from the board since kindergarten registration starts in February.

Board President Don Drzal said the fee even seemed unfair to parents who would be introduced to tablets for the first time this year, although he noted that parents ultimately have the option to pay for the protection.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s not relevant,” member Tony Quagliano told Drzal. “(The fee) is a positive option that provides peace of mind to our community ... to protect them against some high potential of cost.”

Members approved the protection fee, 5-1, with Drzal voting against it. The vote also kept general registration fees for the 2014-15 school year flat for parents.

Elementary school parents will still pay $173 total to register their student for school. Middle school parents will pay $218, while high school parents will pay $228 in registration fees.

The sluggish economy and the fact that the district’s fees are higher than other area school districts convinced district officials to keep the fees flat, Altmayer said.

“We understand where we are at in this economy, and we don’t feel it’s appropriate to increase fees for the parents,” he said.

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