CENTRAL — All sixth- through 12th-graders in Central will receive a new laptop computer, in addition to their textbooks, when they show up Aug. 7 for the start of the 2014-15 school year, but first they will have to abide by newly adopted rules.
One rule requires them to pay an annual “technology coverage fee,” ranging from $40 for one student to $70 for a family with multiple students.
The Central School Board adopted this “acceptable use” policy Monday for the 2,400 Dell laptops it recently ordered through a state contract. The school district is entering into a four-year lease to obtain the laptops at a cost of $514,000 a year. About $230,000 of that came from taxes voters renewed in November.
The “1 to 1 Laptop Initiative” will put Central on a par with a handful of school districts in Louisiana, including Iberville Parish, as well as a few private schools including St. Thomas More Catholic High in Lafayette, that provide or require laptops for some or all grades.
Central Superintendent Michael Faulk said the new laptops will make it much easier for students to more easily take new online tests planned for spring 2015 prepared by PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. In January, the state Department of Education found that Central had less than one computer for every seven students, the minimum amount the state is mandating for school districts taking these tests.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is trying to ditch PARCC in favor of new tests, but the state Department of Education for now is sticking with PARCC.
Faulk said the laptops will be useful whether PARCC tests are given or not.
“We’re using the laptops more for teaching and learning,” Faulk said.
The annual $40 to $70 fee that Central students will pay is meant to cover the cost of fixing or replacing laptops. Schools can set up payment plans for families who can’t pay the full fee right away.
In 2013-14, Central provided iPads to every sixth-grader at Central Middle School to road test the idea. That experience led the school system to opt for laptops instead because of the greater memory and versatility, Faulk said. The iPads are being given to fifth-graders this year.
Board member Sharon Browning asked Faulk on Monday if any sixth-graders opted out.
“We had some (initially), but when we talked to them, we were able to address their issues,” he said. “They realize it’s something they have to have.”
Faulk said he might seek to expand the program in the future but would start no earlier than third grade.
The new rules allow students to take their laptops home, but students will have to pledge to bring them to school every day charged and ready to work. Students who transfer out of Central schools have up to five days to return their laptops or the devices will be reported stolen.
The annual fee won’t cover students who damage their laptops in certain ways, for instance, if they spill food or drinks on them, or allow their laptops to be stolen by leaving them unattended. The school system reserves the right to try to make the family pay to replace the laptop in such cases.