All District 128 students to get laptops starting next term
All Libertyville High School and Vernon Hills High School students will be given laptop computers when the 2015-16 term begins, the District 128 board decided Monday.
The high-tech rollout comes some six years after District 128 officials began investigating the pros and cons of such a program.
It also follows a six-week pilot program staged this year at both schools.
The development time may seem lengthy, but District 128 officials said it was needed to properly plan the effort.
That included making sure the schools' wireless networks could handle the traffic and determining which computer was the best to use, said Joe O'Brien, the assistance principal for curriculum and instruction at Vernon Hills High.
"Extending our students' learning beyond the four walls of the classroom ... is a place we have arrived after a journey," O'Brien said. "We are not the first, but we feel that we are prepared to maximize this step in our digital learning strategy because of what we have learned."
Public and private schools in Gurnee, Mundelein, Palatine and other suburbs have such efforts already. They're commonly called one-to-one initiatives.
Some schools use laptops. Others use tablets.
Students at Libertyville High and Vernon Hills High will be assigned Chromebook laptops made by Lenovo. The thin, lightweight Chromebooks primarily use Internet-based programs instead of traditional computer software.
Chromebooks and iPad tablets have been available for classroom use at Libertyville High and Vernon Hills High for a while. But students haven't been able to take them home.
That changed with the recent pilot program. The district gave Chromebooks to roughly 900 students and 20 teachers to test the schools' wireless capabilities, policies and classroom integration possibilities.
For the program to expand to all of the district's 3,300 students, officials plan to buy an additional 2,600 Chromebooks. They'll cost $440 each, or an estimated $1.1 million total.
To help defray the cost, students will be asked to pay $50 a year, Associate Superintendent Al Fleming said. Next year's juniors and seniors will pay more, $100 or $150 respectively.
Additionally, students will be asked to purchase insurance policies that will cost about $40 annually, officials said.
Students will be able to purchase the devices after they graduate, Superintendent Prentiss Lea said.
"This way you pay $50 every year and you've got the device at the end of the rainbow," Lea said.
The computers will be equipped with Internet filtering software to prevent inappropriate use.
The district may also purchase Chromebooks or laptops for teachers who request machines. A cost estimate hasn't been determined.