by Mickey Smith
HYDE PARK – A proposal is going to be presented to the voters of the Lamoille North Supervisory Union to provide each student in grades seven through 12 with an iPad2.
Lamoille Union Principal Brian Schaffer described the proposal, currently called “Lancer 1” as a further step in the process started when Lamoille Union found themselves on a list of underachieving schools a few years ago. That ranking made the school eligible for a School Improvement Grant and has led to a lot of ideas around the improving the use of technology at the school – including hiring former middle level teacher Marc Gilbertson as the technology integrationist for the entire campus.
In Gilbertson’s new role, he works with teachers about finding ways to incorporate computers and other technology devices into their curriculum. One of the problems that has arisen from this is a waiting list for using the technology available at school.
Gilbertson said teachers have to plan a couple weeks out when they might need to use the computer lab or an iPad cart that circulates through the building. At home, though, more Lamoille students have access to the internet. A recent study conducted by Gilbertson shows 83% of Lamoille students have broadband access at home, while another 6% have it sometimes. Gilbertson said these “sometimes” situations are mostly students with divorced parents where it might be available at one home and not the other. Only about 11% do not have coverage at home.
Schaffer explained Lamoille finds itself in an unique situation this year, as the school has an uncommitted fund balance from the FY13 budget of $954,173. This would allow $525,000 ($600 per iPad for 875 students) to spend for the initial purchase, while also returning $250,000 to the taxpayers, as well as setting aside $179,743 for a capital reserve fund – if approved by voters.
Schaffer said it is very rare for a school to have this kind of a fund balance left at the end of a year. He said getting about 40 extra students from the Wolcott school system played a big role in having that surplus.
Schaffer and Gilbertson said some of the details are still being worked out, but basically in the first year all students would receive an iPad, and in future years students would receive a new iPad in their sophomore year. The old ones from that transition would go back to incoming seventh graders. At graduation time, seniors would be given the option to purchase their iPad.
While current data about technology use is hard to find because it is so new, Lamoille Union has been able to receive some data from other schools in the state that have already tried this approach. From Enosburg High School they have learned damage to the iPad is minimal. Enosburg reported a 4% damage rate to their iPads, as compared to 15% for netbooks.
Schaffer and Gilbertson said the entire technology team at Lamoille Union High School and Middle School have been involved in the project. Schaffer said LUMS Principal Chris Hindes is on board as well, and the two principals have been working on several campus wide initiatives.
Gilbertson said he and library media specialist Meghan Towle do a brief online video about technology options each week. Grant Harper, Robin Godin, Andrea Caldwell and John Coppens have also been in integral in creating the plan.