Update, Sept. 22, 11 a.m.: Distribution of the new Chromebooks, which was supposed to begin today, has been postponed, EGHS Principal Michael Podraza said in an email that went out to families this morning. The message read:
The installation of hardware that drives the required filtering on the Chromebooks when they are connected to wi-fi outside of EGHS is incomplete. We will not distribute the Chromebooks until this filtering is up and students are able to use the Chromebooks both at school and at home.
I will contact you once this issue is resolved and a distribution time/date is set.
It is unclear how long this will delay distribution, Supt. Victor Mercurio said it could be resolved by tonight. EG News will keep you updated.
When the East Greenwich School District started looking to provide students with personal computer devices two-plus years ago, the idea was still pretty new. Students at Rocky Hill School had laptop computers, but no public schools had yet equipped their students with personal computers or tablets. This fall, there’s a whole new shift taking place in East Greenwich – where high school students will receive their own Chromebooks Monday and Tuesday of this week – and around the state.
In addition to East Greenwich, eight districts are moving to a so-called 1:1 environment, where students have their own computer devices supplied by the school. The other districts are Bristol-Warren, Chariho, Coventry, Cumberland, Foster-Glocester, Exeter-West Greenwich, Jamestown and West Warwick. An additional seven other districts are moving in that direction, said state Dept. of Education spokesman Elliot Krieger.
West Warwick actually started the move to 1:1 last year. Using grant money, it bought 300 Chromebook tablets for students at Wakefield Hills Elementary School in 2013. This year, the entire district has gone 1:1, thanks to more grants and donations from private companies.
In East Greenwich, taxpayers are paying for the devices and their implementation, at a total cost of $392,500. That figure includes 750 Chromebooks at a cost of $308 each; $65,000 for a staff person to oversee all aspects of the 1:1 implementation; and $44,250 for a three-year warranty among other costs.
However, the actual cost to the 2015 budget is only $67,962.
That’s because the district has a lease-to-buy deal for the Chromebooks, breaking down the cost of the devices to $110,000 a year for three years. Part of that $110,000 will be paid for out of the district’s technology fund – $80,000 in fiscal year 2015, $60,000 in 2016, and $30,000 in 2017.
Add to that some budget “offsets” – less money spent on textbooks and computers (some EGHS computers will be “repurposed” elsewhere in the district) – and the total cost in the 2015 year operating budget is $67,962. That number is anticipated to increase in subsequent years – to $129,962 in 2016, $159,962 in 2017, and $189,962 in 2018. For a more detailed look at the financing of this project, you’ll find the district’s presentation here.
East Greenwich High School Principal Michael Podraza and School Committeeman Jack Sommer have been vocal champions of 1:1 adoption, citing the educational potential and the need to prepare students for a digital world.
High school administrators have been working with faculty for the past two years in preparation for this move and some of the money allocated to the project has been put toward teacher training (i.e. professional development). In recent months, School Committeewoman Deidre Gifford questioned several times whether there was enough professional development built into the program and member Carolyn Mark, at the School Committee meeting Sept. 16 asked Supt. Victor Mercurio to find a way to measure teacher comfort and ability with the new technology.
Students and parents must sign a Chromebook loan agreement form – like textbooks, the computer devices must be returned at the end of each school year. And, like textbooks, if the Chromebook is lost or damaged, it is up to the student and parents to pay for the cost of a new one. The school district is offering insurance on the devices at $31 for one year, $89 for three years (with no deductible).
Students are also required to complete two online courses on proper digital behavior, both in terms of safeguarding personal information and with regard to issues like cyber-bullying.