Students at Emmetsburg High School will be furthering their education with new laptop computers for the next school year following action by the Emmetsburg Community School District Board of Directors Wednesday night. However, the acquisition of those computers came only after a discussion on philosophy on the district's One-to-One Computer Initiative program.
The discussion began as District Technology Director Bryan Ruff presented the board with his recommendation to acquire Dell Latitude 13 Education Series laptops. The laptops, valued at $751 each as equipped, would be distributed to students in grades 9-12 at the high school as part of the district's One-to-One computer initiative.
"These are the best units out of the seven that were evaluated by various instructors in the building and myself," Ruff told the board members.
"I'd like to ask, what is the purpose of our One to One program?" Board President BJ Schany asked. "It is to educate our kids with, or is it just to buy computers?"
"We knew when we started with the program three years ago that it wouldn't necessarily increase student achievement," Superintendent John Joynt told the board members, "but, we also knew having the computers would be a benefit to the kids to get them to become more engaged in the classroom."
Assistant Principal Tracie Christiansen joined in the conversation. "We would like to be able to bring more integration of technology into the district classrooms in the future to better utilize the computers. Right now, the kids are using the computers well, but we have some instructors who still need to let go and be willing to work with the idea of integrating the technology into the classroom. Through our PLC's, (Professional Learning Communities) this is becoming more of an emphasis."
"We've talked about our hopes and visions for technology and we never do it," Schany said.
"With our new computers, we will work them into our PLC's," Christiansen answered. "But we need to give our kids something they want to work on. Kids like to mess around with new things."
"Let me get this straight We started looking at new computers because our original laptops were going to last three years, right? And, they would need to be replaced after three years, is that correct?" asked Board Member Tammy Naig.
Joynt answered to the affirmative. "Our philosophy is to improve what we're doing and to help our teachers educate our kids."
High School English instructor Kelly Josephson agreed. "There is a stage to beginning to remove textbooks and paper from the classroom, and this would be a start. The more engaged kids are, the better they do in their studies. We want to get kids to think critically, which will allow them to solve problems later in their lives by critical thinking. That's what computers can help do."
Discussion turned to what would happen with the district's current inventory of ByteSpeed laptops which were originally purchased when the One to One program began in 2011.
Joynt and Ruff explained the old laptops would be recycled, as they have very little value. A question was raised about the possibility of making the old laptops available for purchase by students. However, it was noted by Christensen to do that would require the district to place the laptops up for public auction in accordance with state law, as the units were originally purchased with tax dollars.
The board then considered options for outright purchase of the laptops as opposed to leasing the units for two or three year periods, which would include an option to purchase the laptops at the end of the lease period at a fair market value.
"I would recommend against purchasing the units at the end of three years,"?Ruff said. "They are under warranty for three years with technical support in the lease, and when that's over, there would be no more warranty or support.
With no more discussion, Naig moved for accept the three-year lease of the 250 laptops from Dell at a cost of $60,668, per year, , which was approved by the board.