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GMRSD plans for personal student laptops

  • Turners Falls High School is at 222 Turnpike Road in Montague. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE



Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 14, 2018

TURNERS FALLS — Move over, cursive writing. Technology is coming through.

The Gill-Montague Regional School District is gearing up to give each of its sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders a Chromebook laptop this coming fall.

Not only will it allow students to complete in-school and homework assignments, GMRSD staff hope that the computers will help kids become more prepared to study and work in the new age of technology.

GMRSD Director of Information Technology Tina Mahaney met with the School Committee Tuesday evening to field questions about the laptops and discuss plans for their implementation. The district is loosely following how Frontier handles its laptop program since Frontier also gives students these computers.

Only seventh- and eighth-graders will be allowed to take the Chromebooks home. Sixth-graders will be required to keep their laptops at school.

Along with the laptop, each student will be provided a charger. School Committee members also discussed the possibility of supplying students with protective cases or bumpers to avoid damage.

Damage concerns

Of course, some damage is to be expected and the administration is trying to figure out what to do about repair costs and device insurance. At the committee meeting, they mulled over the $20 one-time insurance charge that could be included with the purchase of a laptop.

“We are expecting certain damage,” Mahaney said, adding that staff hopes for any damage to be minimal.

Mahaney said a full device replacement would be slightly over $200, but with the $20 insurance, the replacement cost would be covered. The committee discussed giving parents the option to purchase insurance, but realized some parents wouldn’t be willing or able to write the check.

School Committee member Cassie Damkoehler voiced concern that some parents wouldn’t have money to replace a damaged part or device.

“If we provide the computers as a learning tool, we should be able to back it up ... or replace it,” she said.

Superintendent Michael Sullivan suggested that perhaps the district could pay the $20 insurance per student instead, since fixing broken laptops without insurance would end up being more expensive for the district eventually.

He also mulled over the potential to have students pay a deposit for their computer to motivate them to keep the devices in good shape.

Mahaney said that out of 640 supplied Chromebooks at Frontier, around 200 have already been damaged and only 60 parents opted for insurance.

Laptop specifics

A specific Chromebook model has not been chosen yet, but whichever model is chosen will have a webcam and Cloud storage. All information would be stored in the Cloud in the school’s Google domain.

Students will not be able to use their personal home laptop at school — they must use the Chromebooks, said Sullivan, citing that non-supplied computers would cause a “nightmare” with network connectivity.

Mahaney cited Frontier’s operations again, saying that the district required an additional 20 hours per week from tech staff to help with software and inventory needs.

“That’s practically another part-time person,” she said.

Overall, GMRSD administrators hope for the students to keep their computers through their senior year so they can continue to use them for college or work.

A draft policy for the computers will be completed before the 2018-2019 school year starts, said Sullivan.

Reach Christie
Wisniewski at:

cwisniewski@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 280