The Plymouth School Board unanimously approved the purchase of laptop computers for student use at Lincoln Junior High for the upcoming school year.
The Plymouth School system has had a goal for the last several years to incorporate one-to-one computing, project based learning, and virtual learning. The proposed integration of the student computers falls within the goals, according to LJH Principal Dan Funston.
Funston said he not only has strong support within the LJH staff for technology based learning but technology leaders as well.
He also explained that new teachers coming into the school are technology savvy. He said, “We have four (new teachers) who grew up with laptops.”
The enrollment on June 3 was 566. Projected enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year is 560-570.
Representatives from Apple, the computers being purchased, were at the meeting. Joseph Lee of the company said, “The Mac is the number one laptop preferred in colleges.” Lee said, for instance, that students attending Ball State University must purchase a Mac computer if they are in the teachers’ college. He said, “Today’s students are resourceful, mobile, creative, collaborative, muti-taskers, and producers.”
Some of the features outlined during Lee’s presentation included the ability of students to communicate with each other or teachers on specific homework or group projects. He said, “Teachers can answer questions from home or the Mac allows students to help students.”
Funston said students will not be allowed to take computers home at first. They plan to make them available in the future, but are still working out insurance requirements and revising acceptable use policies.
Board member Todd Samuelson asked how the purchase could be financed. Funston said, “We will lease 580 student Mac books (have 20 in inventory) at zero percent interest. The unit price is approximately $955 which includes a 3-year Apple Care Protection Program. The expected 4-year lease the student machines will total approximately $554,364.
They will have to lease an additional 35 teacher Mac books at approximately $900 each, increasing the overall total to $585,864 or $146,466 per year.
At the end of the 4-year lease, Lee said Apple will buy back the computers at about 20 percent of the original cost.
Lee said Apple will provide onsite training and engineers to set up the programs. He added, “The key success factors include a financial plan (sustainable), leadership, curriculum, and community involvement.”
Batteries for the units should last for 4-6 years or 1000 charging cycles, according to Lee.
A charged battery should last for seven hours.
Funston has secured grants for much of the costs. He indicated that grant money from the classroom innovations in Math Grant ($100,000) total and ENL grant could mean $25,000 per year towards the lease payment. He also said they will propose a $50.00 laptop or technology fee for 2010-2011.Additonal monies would come from the Capital Projects Equipment Fund for 2010 of $236,919 and 2010-2011 capital funds needs would be approximately $96,466 minus any additional grant funds they are able to secure.
Assistant Superintendent Rodger Smith said, “The Staff (LJH) has already started prioritizing needs. The staff understands that it takes tough choices.”
Superintendent Dan Tyree indicated that they expect a significant cost decrease in paper, ink, and printers since each student will be able to view work on the computer. Tyree said,” We will monitor that.”
Plymouth Schools Technology Director Bruce Johnson assured the board that they are prepared from an infrastructure side for handling the new equipment.
Tyree called the use of computers a “great equalizer”. He said ENL and special needs students have shown great gains with using technology such as I Pods. “We know we are getting close to taking the ISTEP test on computers.”
Although several other states have already adopted the Apple program being purchased, Plymouth would be only one of three for Indiana.