Hawthorn Elementary District 73 for the first time has instituted a technology fee to defray the costs of continuing improvements.
The school board on Monday authorized a $35 fee specifically for technology to the roster of registration fees beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
"We know that we have ongoing costs in that area and we want to make sure we meet the students' needs," Superintendent Nick Brown said. The fee will apply to students in first through eighth grade at the Vernon Hills-based elementary district.
During this school year, the first of a multiyear technology improvement project, 180 teachers were equipped with iPads, and LCD projectors and Apple TVs were installed in every classroom.
"We started with the teachers, and the feedback from the teachers and the parents is that it's really helped out with learning," school board President Jeff Bard said. "We do have increasing costs associated with implementation of the technology in the district."
Brad Goldstein, associate superintendent of finance and business operations, said many districts have a separate fee for technology ranging from $25 to $50. This year, Hawthorn charged $110 for grades K-5 and $150 for grades 6-8 as a registration fee for textbooks, supplies and materials.
The district last increased fees for the 2011-12 school year, he said. The new fee is expected to raise $105,000 and will be specifically designated for technology.
Brown said the fee will be associated with "something that everybody can use," such as laptop carts in all buildings, for example. A recent assessment recommended the district increase its bandwidth, he added.
"Several school systems do have tech fees," Brown said. "The need for technology is becoming an ongoing cost."
Bard said a review of fees at other districts showed District 73 was "close to the midpoint or maybe a little bit below."
Goldstein said the board is cognizant of the need to hold down fees but the cost of keeping current with technology is increasing.