District 128 rolls out laptop program

 
 
Updated 8/5/2015 2:49 PM
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  • Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 students are receiving personal Chromebook computers, similar to this one, this week.

    Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 students are receiving personal Chromebook computers, similar to this one, this week. Gilbert R. Boucher II/Daily Herald File Photo

Classes at Vernon Hills High School don't start until Aug. 19, but incoming sophomore Angela Campos didn't mind taking a trip to campus Wednesday morning.

She was there to pick up a Lenovo Chromebook, a lightweight laptop computer she'll be able to use at school or anywhere she travels for the next three years.

Every Vernon Hills High student is getting a Chromebook this week as part of a new one-to-one computer initiative officials are calling a "digital learning strategy." Teens who attend Libertyville High School, the other District 128 facility, also will pick up Chromebooks this week.

Campos is particularly excited about the hardware. She's been using a hand-me-down computer from an older sister.

"I really need a laptop, because (mine) doesn't get good Wi-Fi," she said.

The District 128 schools are the latest to launch one-to-one computer initiatives. Public and private schools in Gurnee, Mundelein, Palatine and other suburbs have rolled them out in recent years.

Some schools employ laptops while others use tablets. Some educators favor Chromebooks because they're relatively inexpensive and use web-based software rather than programs installed on the machines themselves.

District 128 officials spent six years studying their options before settling on the Chromebook. They've said the goal is to create a new tool to improve and support learning, not merely to give the teens new tech.

"Our students will have increased access to digital learning tools, both in the building and at home," said Joe O'Brien, Vernon Hills High's assistant principal for curriculum and instruction.

Incoming senior Caleb Ju thinks the Chromebooks will make completing assignments easier for students.

"A lot of stuff is online now, especially research," Ju said. "We have (online) databases. Even in science class, we do our homework on a website."

District 128's Chromebooks cost $440 each. Purchasing one for each of 3,300 students cost about $1.5 million.

To help defray the cost, students will be asked to pay $50 each year. This 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.

Students will be able to buy the computers after they graduate.

Chromebook distribution will wrap up Thursday at Vernon Hills High and Libertyville High.

Incoming Vernon Hills freshman Jenny Deng said she and her classmates are fortunate to participate in the program.

She thinks her Chromebook will be especially useful when it comes to writing essays, a task she doesn't particularly enjoy.

"It (will be) a lot more convenient and a lot faster," Deng said.

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