2014-07-25 / Community

Chromebooks for high school on the way

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Jamie Jensen, director of IT Services for Regional School Unit 21, announced that he anticipates the newly purchased Acer Google Chromebooks and their protective cases will arrive during the week of Aug.18.

The decision to purchase Chromebooks was spurred by the district’s adoption of the 1-to-1 technology initiative at the high school earlier this year,, which means each student is given a device.

The net value for about 700 Chromebooks is between $45,000 and $50,000, which was included in this fiscal year’s operating budget.

The decision to purchase Chromebooks and to adopt 1:1 technology was fiscally prudent, said former Superintendent Andrew Dolloff in late April.

“If we didn’t purchase the 1-to-1 technology we would have to replenish the computers for teachers at the high school, anyway, which would be about $20,000,” Dolloff said. “And we would have to replenish one of our computer labs at the high school and that’s about $35,000.

“By going 1-to-1, we avoid those two costs; instead of $100,000, it’s going to be in the $45,000 to $50,000 range.”

In early March, Jensen told the board that in the last three years, increased computer access in grades three through six and in English classes at Kennebunk High School has impacted classroom instruction positively.

“Digital workflow solutions are important to the successful integration of technology ... technology integration occurs when technology is ubiquitous,” Jensen said.

The Google Chromebook does not have an operating system, rather it is cloudbased and “uses Chrome web apps as opposed to an operating system,” Jensen told board members. “It’s a back door to the Internet, but in a scholarly fashion.”

Between the middle of August and early September, Jensen said, a deployment plan will be executed, which includes setting up user accounts and getting the devices enrolled in management services.

The intent is to introduce the Chromebooks to students during their advisory block sometime in the first half of September.

“As far as things go, we are full steam ahead, and we are right on track to get this out,” Jensen said.

Teachers have the option of engaging in technical professional development this summer to learn about the devices before they are issued in the classroom.

Some teachers have already begun using Google Apps, which is a component of Chromebooks, for summer assignments with students, Jensen said.

Parents are required to sign a permission slip for their child’s use of the device. An annual technology fee of $20 is required, before devices are distributed.

“What we’re trying to do is protect ourselves,” said Superintendent Kevin Crowley about the $20 fee. “Any time you have a roll out like this, there’s going to be damage and loss,” Crowley said. If a student breaks or loses the device, it will be replaced for free “once per year,” but the second time it happens, replacement is up to the individual’s family. “In our experience, not all families can take that hit,” Crowley said. “So, in a way we’re creating a fund that will help protect the district from loss.”

Board member Matt Fadiman asked Jensen, “Does the administration view the Chromebooks as a required curriculum tool, much like a textbook?”

Said Jensen, “I wouldn’t call it a required curriculum tool, but I think that, like any tool, it would definitely benefit the students’ experience and teachers’ experience.”

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