U-46 board OKs 900 iPads for PARCC prep

  • The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board authorized purchasing 900 iPads Monday night as part of technology upgrades that officials say are necessary for students to be able to take the state's new standardized test, PARCC, online.

    The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board authorized purchasing 900 iPads Monday night as part of technology upgrades that officials say are necessary for students to be able to take the state's new standardized test, PARCC, online. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/15/2015 9:04 PM

Elgin Area School District U-46 students in kindergarten through second-grade classrooms will have new iPads this fall.

The U-46 school board Monday night authorized spending $470,700 to buy 900 Apple iPad tablets ­-- two per K-2 classroom on average -- for all 40 elementary schools. The cost includes purchasing a three-year warranty from Apple at $99 for each iPad device.

 

Officials say the technology upgrades are necessary for all students to be able to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test online next year. This year, the state allowed U-46 to administer PARCC using a combination of online and paper/pencil tests.

U-46 has been experimenting with iPads in early grades. Purchasing more iPads is part of the district's Technology Master Plan, which also was presented to the school board Monday.

After hearing concerns from school board members about the cost, administrators opted to go with the less expensive iPad Air model instead of iPad Air 2, saving the district $135,000.

The 9.7-inch iPad Air is the smallest device that can support the PARCC online test.

"Really the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 are pretty similar in terms of their capabilities," said Craig Williams, U-46 director of information services. "The iPad Air 2 is faster and lighter. But right now, they both have exactly the same features, so it feels like it's a pretty safe change. Apple still provides support for the first iPad (Air). They still are providing parts for that. We needed to purchase more memory because on the models we purchased last year, we have started to run out of memory."

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In the first year of implementation, each elementary school would have roughly 40 iPads, which would have to be pooled along with laptops and other devices for testing purposes, officials said.

Eventually, the goal is to have six tablet devices per elementary classroom by the 2017-18 school year.

"I think we are moving in the right direction," school board member Cody Holt said.

The school board also authorized spending $3.1 million to purchase additional laptop computers and replacing aging desktops with either new desktops or laptops, and another $1.3 million for peripheral computer equipment and accessories.

Officials plan on having two computer devices on average in third through sixth grade classrooms, and a set of 35 devices for every 12 regular-size classrooms at the secondary level for the coming school year.

Ultimately, officials want to move toward having portable devices in all classrooms districtwide.

Meanwhile, the district also is working on upgrading its technology infrastructure to support additional devices. Officials have applied for roughly $5 million in federal E-Rate Program funding that would reimburse 80 percent of the cost of infrastructure upgrades.

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