(Photo submitted by Chris Baker at F8 Focus)
According to Terry Hemann, the pilot program has been going so well that the district has decided to add more Chromebooks before the school year ends. At the beginning of the semester, seven new sets of Chromebooks will be available for use at the high school and middle school. The high school will receive two sets, donated by Farmers Trust and Savings Bank and Community State Bank. The middle school will receive five sets purchased by the Spencer school district.
"We'll be ahead by one semester," Hemann said. "But, right now, there's a great deal on the computers, and we'll have them operable by second semester."
A set of Chromebooks includes 30 machines and a charging cart, and costs $10,000. The district will purchase the five sets through PPEL and sales tax funds.
"In the coming years, we'll be spending more on technology than we will on textbooks," Hemann said. "We're already seeing this with some of our classes."
The Chromebooks that the district is purchasing are last year's model, which are now at a price that prompted Hemann to recommend purchasing a semester ahead of schedule. In talking with representatives at Google, it was found the technology in the newer model hasn't advanced enough to justify the upgrade.
A discussion topic for the board throughout the year has been on continuing to add Chromebooks to the classrooms, specifically as the sixth grade -- which has been using Chromebooks regularly in Language Arts classes -- moves up to seventh grade.
"If the sixth grade has them, but the seventh and eight didn't next year, that would be a problem," Boardmember Dean Mechler said. "We can't incorporate them one year and then not have them available in the next year."
While the board may have had reservations about the technology in the classroom, several presentations by staff and students have assured them that Chromebooks enhance the learning experience much more than they hinder it.
"It doesn't take focus away from the core education," Board President Bob Whittenburg said. "It's not eating up time or resources, and it gets the students excited."