School planning high-tech upgrade

Starting next school year, another local school will swap textbooks for laptops.

Students at Whiteland Community High School will get Chromebooks, making Clark-Pleasant the fifth of six local public school districts to give some students their own devices. Greenwood is the only school district that does not assign a device to each student at any grade level.

The total cost of the 2,000 devices: $658,000, which families will pay for in their annual school fees. School board members approved 4-0 purchasing the laptops. School board member Butch Zike was absent from the meeting.

If the first year goes well, officials are looking to expand the program to the middle school by the 2017-18 school year.

Clark-Pleasant officials have considered giving students a laptop or iPad that they could use at school and at home for years, but they were unsure of how to pay for them. Last year, the school district got $400,000 in tax dollars collected in Greenwood tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts. That helped cover the cost of a $672,000 project to upgrade wireless internet connections at the high school and middle school to prepare for each student to have their own device.

Next, officials had to decide how to pay for each device. For each high school student, the fee will be $82.30 per school year for the devices, which will be included in their school fees. This school year, a typical student’s fees ranged from about $250 to $325, and covered the cost of textbooks and class materials, such as for chemistry equipment or art supplies.

Officials had estimated purchasing Chromebooks would cost about $100 per student in rental fees, but did not want to raise annual fees by more than $25 next school year. Teachers and administrators looked at ways to eliminate other costs in classes so that fees would not go higher, and for most students, fees are expected to go down from this school year, even with the cost of the Chromebook added in, said assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains. Parents can calculate their child’s estimated school year fees online.

In some cases, textbooks were cheaper to purchase next school year, or course material costs could be eliminated. For example, a senior who took Advanced Placement English, Advanced Placement statistics and Advanced Placement physics this year paid more than $317 in fees. But next year, with the same schedule, fees are about $257.

This summer, officials will determine how the devices will be given to students, and when the teens will get a crash course in how they will use the device in class, from submitting homework online, accessing the school network and using school-wide applications, Rains said.

A committee of administrators and technology specialists visited other school districts to see what programs could be used in the classroom and how students could learn in a different way through the devices.

Teachers at Clark-Pleasant schools already use Google Drive to share documents with other faculty members or allow students to collaborate. But now, teachers will be able to send class notes, videos or homework assignments to students through Google classroom, Rains said.

An e-learning coach, who shows teachers how to use technology in the classroom, already has had one-on-one and group sessions with teachers to find ways to better incorporate technology into the classroom. Teachers also did a one-day training in February to prepare them for when students would have their own laptop, Rains said.

At the beginning of next school year, teachers and administrators will meet with students to teach them how the Chromebooks will be used, how to take care of them and what their expectations are, Rains said. Each student will be given a handbook of rules that explains how the devices should be cared for and what is not allowed on the Chromebook. The devices come with a four-year warranty, but the school district will have a few extra laptops in case they need replaced.

If you go

Informational meetings about how and why Clark-Pleasant will begin giving Chromebooks to high school students will start as early as next week:

Where: Whiteland Community High School, 300 Main St., Whiteland.

When: xx p.m. April 28 and May 12