All Batavia students will be outfitted with Chromebooks, tablets or other personal computing devices in the next two school years.
The school board approved the "21st Century Technology Plan" Tuesday night in a 5-2 vote. Board members Jon Gaspar and Gregg Hodge voted against it.
Next school year, all students in middle and high school will be outfitted with Google Chromebooks. The next year, students in kindergarten through fifth grade will get Chromebooks or tablets.
The district plans to charge parents half the cost of the devices. It estimates it can get Chromebooks for about $249, plus a $30-per-device management license and a $21 protective case.
The plan will cost $890,020 this year, including money to increase bandwidth and improve the district's wireless network. Classrooms will ultimately be able to accommodate up to 90 personal devices, according to Anton Inglese, the district's chief information officer.
Gaspar said he wanted more information about training for teachers, liability issues, and how teachers will be assessed on their use of the devices in their classrooms.
"I feel this is probably the biggest decision I have ever made in this seat. I personally would just like more time with this issue. I would like to slow things down. The financial aspect is what I am having the biggest problem with," Hodge said.
He said he didn't like the idea of using some of the money that could be spent on capital items, such as roof projects.
He suggested a longer implementation time.
Resident Ellen Knautz, who has children in the middle and high schools, spoke against the fee at the board meeting and at a finance committee meeting earlier in the day.
She questioned the comparison presented of registration fees for other districts, noting that some districts include everything, including a technology fee, in their "registration" fee. Batavia does not.
"My definition of 'registration fee' is the check that I pay so my children can go to school on the first day," she said. This year, that was $155 for her middle schooler and $210 for her high schooler.
Knautz said the district shouldn't have to charge parents especially because the district is receiving several million dollars more in property taxes this year from the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall.
Knautz also said it might be better for the district to wait and learn from the experience of other districts giving devices to every student, and that most of them were only in the first year.
The district tested using iPads in fifth-grade classrooms at Alice Gustafson Elementary School and Google Chromebooks in one section of sixth grade in the 2012-13 school year. Last fall, it issued Chromebooks to all sixth-graders.
Gustafson fifth-grade teacher Larke Cornack told the board she initially was leery of using the iPads. "Two years ago I didn't even have a smartphone," she said.
But, "I realized if I was going to be the good teacher I thought I was, I was going to have to get in this digital world."
She loves that she is no longer the sole provider of information to students in the classroom and how it enables her to act quickly when unexpected "teachable moments" arise.
"I don't know what I would do without it now," Cormack said.
Parents will be able to pay the fee in 10 monthly installments. The fee will be reduced or waived for those students who are eligible for reduced-price or free lunches.