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School leaders considering charging technology fee

Students and parents might have to dig into their wallets next school year and pay a fee in order to use school-issued iPads and laptops.

Money raised as a result of a fee would be used to help keep the devices running and would help the school system fund these 1 to 1 technology initiatives.

Daniel Vogelman, assistant superintendent for accountability and technology for Wilson County Schools, has already discussed the issue with the Wilson County Board of Education. Vogelman and his team have been researching how other school districts handle such fees and he will be presenting the board with recommendations in the near future. Staff will also be exploring and presenting information on insurance possibilities.

It is costing the district between $120,000 to $150,000 per year to keep the laptops students at Hunt High School have been using up and running. And Vogelman is counting on rising costs and problems next school year with the iPads the district’s middle school students are using.

Next school year marks three years the iPads have been in students’ hands.

When Vogelman raised the issue of charging a fee with the board in May, he emphasized that at that time the technology department had no specific proposal. He only wanted to give board members information to consider.

School districts across the state handle technology costs differently. Some charge fees, some offer insurance and some cover all repair and replacement costs out of local funds. Then there’s also the question of how to handle students and the families who can’t afford to pay a technology usage fee. Some districts have a fee scale while others call on the community to help cover the fee for some students.

Board members Henry Mercer and Christine Fitch in May expressed concern about what allowances could be made for low-income families. Fitch also questioned how you determine if damage to a device was accidental or intentional. Some school districts require parents to pay for repairs or for replacing devices if damage is deemed wilful or intentional.

"Nothing is ever wilful or intentional,” Fitch said. She added that people will always declare damage was not intentional.

When laptops were distributed at Hunt back in 2007, students had to pay a $25 annual fee. The school set up payment plans for families unable to pay the $25 fee up-front. The district isn’t charging the families of middle school students an annual fee for the iPads. But if an iPad is damaged and repairable, a family is charged $50. But if the damage to an iPad is so extensive it can’t be repaired and the damage is deemed to be the student’s fault, then the family can face a bill for hundreds of dollars for replacing it.

One of the reasons Vogelman expects the district to face higher costs for keeping the iPads working is the district is no longer buying the AppleCare protection plan for the iPads. For the past two years, Wilson County Schools has invested $99 for each iPad to be covered under AppleCare. But the decision was made not to invest in AppleCare for the third year due to rising costs.

Staff is supposed to be gathering information about the repairs and problems the district has had with the iPads. Each middle school provides the district each year with spreadsheets outlining what iPads were recovered from students, whether the iPads were damaged and whether payment was received for the damage.

Vogelman explained that at the end of each school year, replacement cords and covers are purchased as needed. Those items are replaced mainly due to normal wear and tear. This school year, the district spent $40,000 on 300 replacement chargers and 500 Otterboxes or iPad covers.

Overall, the plan is for the district to issue middle school students iPads when they enter sixth grade and continue to reissue students those same iPads each year of middle school.

Conversations will start next school year about whether the district should continue to use iPads in the middle schools or consider another device.

Hunt students will start next school year without their laptops. Vogelman said they talked to the staff at Hunt about the decision to take up the laptops and they are OK with it.

The plan is to issue Chromebooks to students attending the district’s three traditional high schools, hopefully by the second semester of next school year.

Taking up the laptops at Hunt means the district can use the money it has been spending on laptop repairs and maintenance to help with the Chromebooks project.

Members of the E-Learning Committee at each high school have been testing the Chromebooks to make sure the product is what is needed. If the teams like the Chromebooks, then the district will purchase a classroom set teachers can check out and use with students during the fall semester.

It is expected to cost the district around $299 each to lease Chromebooks. Being able to move forward with the Chromebook project depends on funding being available.

The district has spent around $400,000 to buy 675 laptops and protective bags for all teachers and certified staff in the high schools and elementary schools.

Technology staff members have been working for the past several weeks setting up and delivering the new laptops to the elementary schools. | 265-7822
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funny said...

I was on the comment section years ago saying whoever is buying the technology needs a plan of support and replacement, and I think they made the wrong choices in some area. Turned out to be more than true. Does anyone running these programs have any financial accounting and project management background??? Plus I just don't see the educational connection yet. Technology for the sake of technology is really just a waste but we should let educational needs drive the technological need.

Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 8:28 AM
Middle school parent said...

The Wilson county school district should have planned accordingly for these costs before they jumped on the "what's trendy" band wagon with these iPads. I never saw a textbook on my sons iPad like we were told when they first were introduced. Total waste of money to me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 10:27 PM
from knowledge @ to knowledge said...

Let me make myself clear since you don't seem to understand.....what i mean by district is the "middle school district that we live in". There are textbooks at this middle school and the ONLY app my child used this past year was the calculator for Math.

Monday, June 16, 2014 at 10:44 AM
Teacher said...

I like the iPad! The iPads should never have been given out to students. There should have been class sets only. There were parents who opted out of the iPad program and told Vogelman that an iPad was never to be placed in their child's possessions without permission. A parent states my child is not responsible the district ignores the parent.
Someone stated that all teachers were using iPads for personal use. I know this is not true because many teachers never picked them up unless it involved training.
The district should have done lease/purchase options.

Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 12:20 PM
Teacher2 said...

Go back to textbooks! The iPads have no textbooks on them. They only have every imaginable educational app installed. No one uses them except for the mandated lessons required by the central office. It is too hard to monitor a classroom of 30 kids as to who is on the appropriate internet site. We need to get updated textbooks and go back to using computers for research and not instruction, because the iPads fail miserably for instruction!

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 8:22 PM
@CMY said...

Resistance is futile, you will assimilate......and the kicker...those in charge CAN'T speak proper English...tsk tsk tsk

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 7:55 PM CMY said...

The thing that bugs me is that if I don't think my child is responsible enough for this technology, or if I just don't want him to responsible for it (things get stolen) I am still on the hook for the replacement costs. I don't have an iPad because I don't want one, and can't afford one. I am not happy at all that my 11 year old will be getting one in the fall. Why Apple anyway? There are any number of companies selling quality tablets for much less. Maybe Kindle would be a nice change.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 3:58 PM The school system said...

Investing in new technology that will genuinely benefit the students is one thing; but this is another altogether. The school strong armed the parents into this with little discussion and no ability to Opt-Out. They did not fully analyze the “cost” of the implementation or disclose this to the parents. Now they are scrambling to pass on more of the “unexpected” cost to the parents. Thanks to Electricities (NCEMPA), a mass exodus of decent paying jobs (NAFTA), and no effort of the parts of our local and state legislators to attract new business; we cannot bear the cost of the new technology.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 3:50 PM Common sense said...

Advocating new technology seems great at the start because it assumes students will be exposed to skills they will need to navigate the future, as well as providing cost savings to the county in that books can be digitally accessed on them. However, what wasn't advertised were the repair/upkeep costs for such expensive equipment, as well as the licensing fees to provide said textbooks on the Ipads. If the county could hardly afford textbooks in the past, how is it now that we can not only afford the new technology but the licensing cost of the textbooks on the technology? Look around at the teachers increasingly having to spend out of their own pockets to stock/supply their classrooms, and you might find a pressing need where money could be better spent, as opposed to providing kids with expensive 'tools' that are largely utilized in non-educational ways outside the classroom.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 2:26 PM @ Citizen said...

School books are often out of date the year after they're published where apps can simply be updated by internet. Plus students need to learn technological literacy in order to be better prepared for the world. A lot has change in the past 30, 20, and even 10 years in the way the world works.

While technology that's incorrectly integrated in the classroom can seem like a waste of resources and time, when done correctly has huge impacts on students' focus, approach to learning and can even allow them to learn at their own pace. As class sizes continue to grow, it is becoming more important to find ways to personalize each child's education. Technology is an easy way to do this when done correctly.

And saying the world is falling apart because of technology is just simply false. Technology has brought the world much closer together.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 1:53 PM Former Wilsonian said...

yeah,lets go back to Encyclopedias and the Dewey Decimal System. And while we are at it lets go back to horse and buggies, VHS tapes, bloodletting when sick, typewriters, Walkmans, no seat belts, and UHF only TVs. Let's just stick our heads in the sand when it comes to new technology......

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 1:00 PM High School Mom & Teacher said...

Take it easy on the idea of completely replacing textbooks with technology-- Teachers and students are having to use 10-15 year old textbooks; Ipads and laptops aren't going to last that long! Another advantage to textbooks is that bored students can't turn the page and play video games and with a class of 30+, it's hard to monitor how many are on task when flipping to another screen is so easy to do! Technology is an awesome tool, but it shouldn't be the only thing students have to access! Bring back textbooks for everyone, but let the technology stay in the school!

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 12:32 PM Citizen said...

How about just go back to books? It is really ridiculous that KIDS are using this type of technology. The whole world is falling apart. Pretty sure it's CHEAPER to give students BOOKS! The school system FAILS!

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 9:56 AM to knowledge said...

If the only app the middle school in your district used was the calculator then someone has been lying. Those ipads were being used and what do you mean by in your district. If the schools didn't have any books and the apps were on the ipads - how could the district not use the ipads? Either you are lying or the teachers have been lying to the public. Either way - SOMEONE IS LYING!!! If you would listen to some of the board meetings you would find out how much lottery money Wilson County received and how it was used because the question was certainly asked at one of their meetings. I can't remember exactly what was said but I do know the question was asked.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 8:35 AM SayWhat said...

If anyone is gonna be charged it should be the "OFFICIALS" who decided this is what the children "HAD" to use! I didn't ask for it and I don't want it! We don't even have the internet at my house, and it's been terrible trying to get that through to the school! Even when the kids were able to use them they didn't work correctly and NOT every teacher uses the same app for the assignments. We have seen lots of teachers abusing the use of the ipads as well. The students also leave them laying around the school! Our public school system is a disaster!!!!

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 8:27 AM I say said...

Get rid of it all and go back to the basics, like when I was in school. Encyclopedias, dewy decimal system. I wonder how many children have even heard of the dewy decimal system? How many children would know how to research without the convenience of a computer? I remember having to actually "dig" for my information and type it out. It wasn't as easy as a click here and a click there.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 8:23 AM @doesn't make sense said...

You say teachers should use their own device for work. Let me ask you what other job you know if requires staff to purchase their own device for work? None that I can think if. Just another piece of BS that you want teachers to do with their measely little salary!
As for the district costs...too bad so sad! The cost is too muc? This replacrs teactbiok money since you haven't bought a textbook in years! You chose to make these purchases or get grants and should have known their would be maintenance issues. I do think families need to pay for repairs from damage caused by student use/abuse of the product. Good luck with that though...can't get them to psy library fees for a lost book or pay up on their lunch account, so it isn't likely will pay for technology issues.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 8:18 AM Middle School Parent said...

The technology doesn't work for everyone. My child has had more trouble locating assignments as teachers use different apps on the iPad. There are no books anymore and some kids just don't function well without them. If the home does t have internet services, then the teacher prints out the worksheet. The school wants to save paper, but our cost in paper went up as everything was on the iPad for him to copy. I have taken online classes and it is a very vigorous endeavor. I just don't think 6th graders are ready for that responsibility. As a parent, I had to show my child how to navigate his online portion of the class. Not to mention his charger was stolen this year and a non-Apple brand is cheaper than the 52.00 they are charging us to replace it. The iPad has been more of a hindrance to our family than what it seems to be worth.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 8:05 AM Knowledge said...

Get rid of the Ipads. The only app the middle school in our district used this year was the calculator. Ridiculous to pay a fee for something that is not being used. Where's the NC Education lottery money going?

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 7:23 AM doesn't make sense said...

It doesn't make sense that you would charge high school students a fee and not middle school students. The laptops have been around and used so much that they have issues. Middle school students get more expensive technology and aren't even charged a fee to use it. Really? There are way more middle school students using the ipads than there are Hunt high school students using worn out laptops. A lot of the students opted to use their own anyway. Most teachers may have their own laptops or ipads to which they could've used instead of the district buying them one. Or they could buy one through the school at a better deal. Just how many teachers and certified staff that the school district bought an ipad for are using them for their personal use? All of them?

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 6:18 AM
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