MIDDLEBURG - The Midd-West School District board of directors voted last week to approve a 1-to-1 laptop program for high school students.
Assistant Superintendent Daphne Snook said the program will provide a personal laptop computer to every student in grades 8 to 12 beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. She said the program is a way to reach students on a level they're comfortable with and level the playing field for students who don't have Internet access at home.
"One important thing to keep in mind ... the students who are born now don't remember what it's like without the Internet," she said. "I don't think any of us do our jobs without it."
Investing in laptops for each pupil ensures that all students have access to the same resources, Snook said. Even if Internet is not available at home, students will be able to download necessary information before leaving school and access it offline. The district also hopes to make more textbooks available on the laptops, and already uses some Internet-accessible resources in the classroom.
"When you put a stack of textbooks next to a laptop, it's a pretty big difference," Snook explained.
Now, students will be able to carry everything they need on one device.
Snook said purchasing the laptops will cost approximately $220,000 in the first year. The investment is not significantly greater than the current technology budget, she said, it's just a different way of utilizing financial resources.
There will be a minimal cost to students to implement the program. The district is encouraging parents to purchase a zero-deductible insurance policy for approximately $40 per year. The policy will cover minor damages and repairs. Snook said students may also choose to personalize their device with fancy covers or cases. However, the district will provide a standard laptop case with the computer.
Students who participate in the program can take their laptops home at night to complete projects assigned during the school day. Snook said inappropriate Internet content will be filtered through the school district's proxy even when students are using the computers at home. Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are currently blocked through the district, but may be available to students under the new system. Snook said the district is still working out details, and those websites can provide educational opportunities too.
Beginning in 2017, graduating seniors will have the option to purchase their laptop from the district, according to an FAQ document about the program. Snook said computers that are not purchased by students will be returned to the manufacturer and the remaining value will be credited to the district's account.
"It's a big initiative, but it's really exciting," Snook said.
So far, she said the response has been positive.
Midd-West School District is the first local school district to implement a 1-to-1 laptop program for students, but follows 11 other districts throughout Pennsylvania that launched pilot programs, according to the MWSD website.
More information about the program is available on the district's website at www.mwsd.cc. Click "academics" in the top navigation bar and select "technology." The district is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/middwestschooldistrict.