iPad debate leads to committee

Herald Staff Writer

HUNTINGBURG — An argument over the cost and necessity of computer devices for corporation elementary students has sparked the creation of a new technology committee.

The Southwest Dubois School Board has approved the purchase of iPads for each second-grade student at Huntingburg and Holland elementary schools for $384 each. School officials estimate there will be about 150 second-graders, bringing the total iPad cost to $57,600.

The decision came after much discussion at a board meeting Thursday about the cost to parents, the ability of the corporation technology support staff to handle all of the new devices and possible future repair costs.

Board Vice President Christopher Neu approved the measure with the requirement that the corporation form a technology committee — which will be made up of technology support staff, principals and teachers — to form a plan for future purchases of more than $5,000.

“We need to get a strategy in place. It should help plan out what else we are going to do next,” Neu said. “Are we going to do Chromebooks? When are we going to do them? What do we think the cost is going to be?”

For the past four years, second-grade students have been using laptop computers that were purchased with grant money. Those devices have become obsolete and some are broken, Huntingburg Elementary School Principal John Seger told board members. At a previous meeting, he expressed concern that failing to purchase replacement computers would deprive students and teachers of technology advantages they have been enjoying for several years. Teachers use the computers to enhance their lessons.

Board members were hesitant to buy the iPads because the cost will be transferred to parents, who will be required to pay an additional $50 on their textbook rental bills this school year. Neu also expressed concern that iPads are not easy to repair and may need to be completely replaced in as little as two years. Before the meeting, he met with other school officials and technology specialists from the community to discuss that fear.

“There are pros and cons,” he told the rest of the board. “The teachers are very passionate about it. They seem ready. There’s still worries and concerns about whether the batteries will work in two years, and unlike the Chromebook, we don’t have the ability to crack these open and swap out the battery for $20.”

Chromebooks are self-updating Google laptop devices that have faster-than-average boot times because of their Internet-based operating systems.

Board Secretary Mike Broeker added that he would like to see the schools apply for grants to help pay for computer purchases. Corporation test coordinator Sheral Stanton explained that it is tough to rely on state money because of the high number of applicants.

“We applied for two innovation grants this year. Over 360 applied for those, 20 received them. As far as getting these grants, it’s highly competitive,” she said, adding that the new committee could help push the corporation to the top of the state’s list for grant consideration. “You really have to have strategies and everyone working together. That’s where we all need to work together across our district, to make sure we’re all on the same page. We’re all on board with you.”

Contact Claire Moorman at cmoorman@dcherald.com.

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com