Officials in Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 are preparing to roll out what they’re calling an “access-for-all” program that within a few years will provide a computer device for each student in the district.
Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski at a meeting of the school board’s technology committee on Oct. 30 laid out for board members and top administrators a plan to get devices into the hands of some students as early as February.
Kuzniewski emphasized that the devices would be used to complement curriculum and instruction, not play a major role in delivering the curriculum to students. That’s why Kuzniewski said the program is being referred to as access-for-all instead of a 1-to-1 program.
The school district in the past eight years has worked to introduce more rigor into its curriculum, Kuzniewski said, and he wanted to reassure teachers that the introduction of devices for all students won’t undercut those efforts.
“The device is nothing more than a tool that should be used to deliver that curriculum,” Kuzniewski said. “It doesn’t replace the curriculum.”
Right now, the school district has carts with about 30 computers available for each grade level, in addition to computer labs. That means each classroom only has a handful of devices, which range from a variety of laptop computers to tablets, available to any one classroom.
Providing access to a device to all students, Kuzniewski said will make delivering the curriculum more efficient. Instead of feeling the need to spend an entire class period in the computer lab typing a report after a few minutes of instruction, the devices can be used periodically, at any time, when they’re needed.
“It’s built for short bursts of technology, not sitting in front of a piece for whatever period of time at the elementary or middle school,” Kuzniewski said.
Amanda Pelsor, the school district’s instructional technology coordinator, said the district is looking to purchase Lenovo Flip laptops that run the Google Chromebook operating system for students.
The device allows students to use a keyboard or touchscreen as an interface, and they are a little more durable than some other laptops. The cost is about $280 each, and the school district is looking to buy about 250 devices per year over the next three years, so that by the 2019-20 school year all students in grades three through eight will have them.
The annual cost for buying the devices, Kuzniewski estimated, would be about $90,000.
The plan is for the school district to roll the devices out in grades three and six for the first three years. The devices follow the students as they move along during their time in the district.
Chromebooks were chosen in part because Riverside-Brookfield High School also uses that operating system, as does Riverside District 96.
One way the use of the devices will differ in District 95 is that the devices will stay at school; students will not take them home. The district plans on having to replace the devices on a four-year cycle.
The full school board – all but one member was present for the Oct. 30 committee meeting – will discuss whether to implement the access-for-all program at its regular meeting later this month. A vote to expend the money to get the program rolling is expected in December.
That means the Chromebooks, which are easy to configure for student use, could be in the hands of third- and sixth-grade students by February.
“I think we can move as fast as the board wants, or we can slow it down as much as the board feels necessary,” Kuzniewski said.