Chesterton Tribune



School Board has some qualms on cost of issued iPads, pervasiveness of tech

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Duneland Schools IT Director Kevin Wilson updated the Duneland School Board on technology use throughout the corporation at its meeting Monday night.

This year Wilson said his department will be refocusing IT support positions more toward helping the end user of devices, rolling out online registration that will enable single-site registration, and implementing iPads for students in kindergarten, first grade, seventh grade, and eighth grade. Wilson said iPads were given to students from second to sixth grade last year and have worked well as a way to supplement lessons with the help of three technology integration specialists who advise teachers how to use the new technology and how to judge where other activities excel more.

Board Member Kristin Kroeger asked how the devices have held up, and Wilson responded that roughly 2,600 iPads were given out last year, and less than five percent have been damaged. The iPads, which cost $299 each, come with a drop-proof case that costs $100.

Duneland Schools got a Common School Fund loan to pay for the devices last year and is on schedule to pay it off by 2021 or 2022, according to Duneland Chief Financial Officer Lynn Kwilasz. Until those loans are paid off, parents will not be responsible for the costs of school-provided devices. Kroeger said that the Board needs to hear about the sustainability of funding for new technology programs and what the future costs for parents could be. “That requires some further discussion,” she said.

Board Member Ron Stone, for his part, expressed concern about the financial and educational costs of using so much technology. “They say kids are on screens four to six hours a day. I think it’s just too much. That’s all they seem to want to do,” he said. Stone also noted that the cost of iPads for families with several children could get “ridiculous.” Wilson and Kwilasz said that a fee for mobile devices could eventually replace the fee for textbooks as digital books are phased in. Also, a device will follow the same student for its lifetime, so the cost would be divided across years of use.

Duneland Schools Superintendent Dr. Ginger Bolinger added that, regarding funding, it is yet to be decided if high school students will get devices through the school. “When we’ve talked to students, a lot of them have said ‘Yeah I’d rather bring my own device,’” she said. Wilson is waiting for input from CHS students on providing devices for them. One of the things he asked is whether the students would prefer iPads or Chrome Books.

Kroeger added that no matter what, there must be policy changes: “Before school starts we need an updated mobile device policy. I’ve been saying that for two years. This is the year.”

Some other technology projects include Wifi on buses, so students can work and study on their way to and from school, and the MyDistrict360 tool, which helps teachers keep track of important district statistics like attendance trends and college and career preparedness among students. The bus Wifi will start on seven buses for a testing phase.

The Board approved Wilson and Kwilasz to apply for another Common School Fund loan for present and future technology costs. The loan, if awarded, would be $500,000 and has an interest rate that hovers around 1 percent each year. It can be repaid on a three or five-year schedule, Kwilasz said.

Bus Purchases

In other business, the Board approved the purchase of four 78-passenger Type C buses, three 66-passenger Type C buses, one 14-passenger Type A bus, and one Starcraft special purpose vehicle from Midwest Transit out of Kankakee, Ill. With the trade in value on the vehicles these will replace, the total cost came to $643,505, well short of the 2018 estimate of $826,130 in the bus replacement plan.

Transportation Manager Cathy Forszt reports that the buses will be equipped with improved 1080hp high definition cameras that look down into the seats instead of only seeing students from the shoulders up. “We will also be able to download the videos directly to our office without going out to the bus barn to pull the hard drive,” Forszt said.


Posted 4/3/2018




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