It's a discussion that the School Committee has been having for more than three years: what is the proper way to begin a program that would have every student using a laptop? Last night, they approved a plan that would allow students the options of leasing a computer through the school or bringing their own computer to school with them daily.
Community feedback around the initiative has been discussed for the past few months, since the schools came up with a plan that would involve leasing of computers.
Most of the feedback from the community yesterday was focused on the cost of the MacBook's that the schools opted to go with.
"The cost is extreme, this initiative could be done with 1/3 of the cost so I feel that it is a strain on the school’s budget and the individual families,” Mark Kosa said.
The cost of the MacBooks that will be leased next year is $1,036, spread out over four years that will cost families around $250 per year. The total price is at least double that of a comparable Dell laptop; it's also considerably higher than the cost of a tablet.
Assistant Principal Ashoke Ghosh said that while all options were considered, tablets didn't have the necessary functionality yet and teachers in the school had the most experience with the Apple operating system.
“One of the big reasons we went with the MacBook is because it is a tool the teachers have been using for the past three years, so they are comfortable with it and they can help students troubleshoot any problems,” Gosh said.
Other concerns raised by resident were around the process from here out.
“The current 1:1 laptop initiative lacks a long term plan which I believe is essential to it’s success," Jackie Potenzone said.
For Director of Technology Kathy Dooley, the lack of a long term plan allows the district more flexibility as technology evolves.
“Things are changing so rapidly, and one of the benefits of doing this the way we’re dong this is that we can adjust to the changes as they come along," Dooley said.
With 83 percent of the incoming freshman on board with the program, the School Committee felt that it was time to "step off the pier and in to the water" as Superintendent Jonathan Landman put it.
Before discussion closed, newly elected committee member reminded everyone that any initiative the schools take on needs to be grounded in the bottom line for the district and ultimately reduce the costs of the district.
“I think we need to look in to the ways that we can utilize this to reduce other operating costs in the school,” Graziano said. "And I know there has already information about how this will reduce the paper usage."