The AWRSD School Committee voted 7-1 to approve the iPad Initiative proposal as modified and recommended by the School Committee's Technology subcommittee.
The plan is to lease, with funds already earmarked for technology upgrades, approximately 86 iPad II’s for the incoming AWRSD Kindergarten class of 172 students.
The iPads will be divided into bundles or “classpacks” of approximately 25 units that will be shared by every 2 classrooms.
Parents who want to will be able to participate in the “lease to own” option through the Massachusetts one-to-one program and for $25/per month x 24 months plus a $50 insurance fee will be able to own the iPad in the 25th month for $1.
A home-owned iPad will not be allowed to travel back and forth with the child to school but can be loaded with the same apps that will be included in the units leased to the school.
One of the primary reasons the Kindergarten class was chosen for this pilot program, over say first or second grade, was because this tool has also proved particularly useful for identifying students much sooner who are in need of an IEP (individual education plan) and early intervention is everyone’s goal.
The one “no” vote to the proposal was because that committee member objected to the program only being offered to Kindergarten.
The biggest drawback to having 2 classrooms share a “classpack” is that some of the applications have features like directed learning and can customize the prompts and suggestions to the individual user.
Having more than one user can dilute some of these effects but with this pilot program comes a commitment from the School Committee to form a review committee to adjust this program as necessary to meet the needs of those involved.
It’s also important to remember that, by law, the School Committee’s purview is budget--not curriculum. The faculty and administration professionals are best suited to determine how these will be used in the classroom settings. I have yet to talk with one teacher who was anything less than truly excited about this program.
Those parents who want to lease-to-own one for a home-owned iPad should certainly feel free to ask their child’s teacher for recommendations, especially if they want to reinforce the classroom learning.
Even though the iPad initiative is revenue neutral right now the best way to keep it from affecting your tax bill would be to support it in its original proposal from March 2011 and encourage parents to "lease to buy" and the home-owned tablets follow the child to school.
The March proposal was changed after a discussion forum and to accommodate some parental objections. The home-owned iPad becomes customized to the user and follows the student and relieves the district of a significant financial burden.
When, not if, the state requires the district to participate in the one-to-one initiative by unfunded mandate it will be forced into the school budget which means core cuts or an override (impacting everyone's tax bill).
As originally proposed, it's more like a user-fee where only those who use it pay for it. We've seen this occasionally with an athletic fee for school sports. Personally, I don't object to that.
There are a lot of parents whose children participate in athletics/activities that aren't school sponsored and they pay all of those fees. While I think there are philosophical points to be made most people, and especially taxpayers, can wrap their minds around user-fees for tangible assets.
While I don't think the concept works for all public services, in this particular case--it does.
Editor's note: I asked Sherry Kersey, AWRSD Business Manager about the district's efforts to get as much government funding as possible. They are having a drawing for two iPads who will be chosen at random from *all students* whose parents complete a free and reduced school lunch application, regardless of if they qualify for free or reduced lunch. Sherry said that each student listed on a completed free and reduced form (only one form per family is required) will be eligible for the drawing. They will be split into two groups: K-8 and 9-12. Even if you do not qualify for free and reduced lunch, you will be entered into the pool simply for filling out the application. Thus, the winners of the drawing are not identified as free and reduced because anyone is eligible. The Superintendent will randomly select the winners at the School Committee meeting of October 4, 2011. Typically, students return the forms directly to their respective schools and are then forwarded to me. They can send them directly to me at the Superintendent’s Office at 11 Oakmont Drive, Ashburnham, MA 01430 as well.