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A laptop for every student: Closer to reality

Staff writer

USD 410 Board of Education took a step Monday toward equipping every high school and middle school student with a computer.

The board discussed a proposal to provide every student at Hillsboro High School for the 2009-10 school year. Hillsboro Middle School would be added the following year.

District computer technician Jason Henry brought a sample computer to show board members. The mini-laptops can do as much as the school’s current desktop computers, he said.

The computers’ screens and keyboards are small, but many students text on cell phones, with even smaller screens and keyboards, Henry said. The mini-laptops would feature the same filters the school uses to prevent inappropriate uses, including cyber-bullying.

With an estimated cost of about $400 per computer, it would cost about $132,000 to equip every high school and middle school student with a mini-laptop.

Comparable desktop computers cost about $700 each, and full-size laptops are $1,000.

The proposed plan would establish a three-year rotation for computers. Three years is a common warranty duration, Henry said. The plan would cost about $285,000 over during a three-year-period to establish the rotation.

Some other districts charge a $50 per year computer fee for mini-laptops, Henry said. That would allow USD 410 to recover much of the cost. The district could also sell computers being taken out of service to graduating seniors, he added.

Board of Education President Rod Koons asked what the benefit of every student having a mini-laptop was — how would it better prepare them for life after graduation?

Computer skills increasingly are important in workplaces, HMS Principal Greg Brown said. More experience with computers would give Hillsboro students a competitive advantage.

Something needs to be done about the district’s computer situation in any case, Interim Superintendent Doug Huxman said. Older computers are reaching the point where it isn’t worth fixing them, Henry said.

Last modified April 21, 2009

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