Cassville pitches tech initiative
District hopes to get 300 Chromebooks in fall
The Cassville R-4 School District is looking to bring more technology into its classrooms, and plans are in the works to do just that by implementing the 1:1 Initiative.
Melanie Stringer, middle school principal, said the district aims to buy 300 Chromebooks, which are personal, laptop computers that run Chrome OS. The devices would be divided into 10 charging carts for use at the middle and high schools this fall. Aiming for school board approval in July, the purchase would cost the district about $155,000, as it is about $15,000 for each cart.
With 30 Chromebooks per charging cart, Stringer said the devices would be used in five classrooms in each building, which will act as a pilot for the 1:1 Initiative.
"With the exception of the high school, we are a little behind true times in technology compared to other districts," Stringer said. "When I came to Cassville eight years ago, I had sophomore students who did not know how to use Word, so we've come a long way."
Stringer hopes to get Cassville even more up to speed, taking advice from other schools with the 1:1 Initiative, such as Monett, Carl Junction, Webb City and Neosho.
"We'd like for the teachers to be able to utilize and access Internet activities or web-based software to enhance instruction in the classroom," she said. "Right now, [in the middle school], we have 48 computers for 430 students, and 26 of those computers are in a business lab and are used every hour for class. That leaves us only 22 computers that are available at any given time."
Stringer said with the new technology, teachers would be able to give students more learning opportunities, especially when it comes to remediation.
"One of the things I'm really excited about are programs that offer remediation opportunities for students," she said. "Say you have a sixth-grade student who is having trouble multiplying fractions. That student can pick up a device, put on headphones and have a teacher on the device reteach that skill and practice using it. "There's a huge database of instructional opportunities and activities, and as someone who spent 13 years in the classroom, I had trouble at times providing those second-chance and third-chance learning opportunities, and this allows teachers to do that."
Looking forward, Stringer said the district hopes to implement Phase II of the 1:1 Initiative in Jan. 2015, aiming to buy enough devices for each student at the high school, also allowing students to take the devices home after school.
By allowing students to take the devices home, Stringer said the district could save an estimated $100,000 in the cost of buying charging carts and in the cost of electricity used to charge the devices.
"A cart itself costs $1,599, so if we have to purchase 35-40 carts, that would be a tremendous expenditure," Stringer said. "But, if we allow students to take the devices home, that will save us a bit of money."
Stringer said the plan will also allow for students to use the devices at home for homework or remediation, which will help in the learning process.
Students who wish to take the devices home must also sign user agreements and purchase insurance, which is in line with methods used at Monett, Webb City and Neosho schools. Stringer said insurance would cost about $50 per year, and for students who may have trouble paying for insurance, there will be assistance available.
"Through our Bright Futures program, if students are struggling to meet that financial obligation, we have opportunities to open doors for them," she said.
Stringer said the district is looking to lease the devices, as technology advances so quickly each year, the district does not want to pay in full for devices that will be obsolete in only a few years.
Richard Asbill, superintendent of Cassville Schools, said the district hopes to do 3-year or 4-year leases with the product vendor, and it will look to lease new devices once the original leases expire.
An agreement to purchase the Chromebooks is expected to be presented to the Cassville Board of Education at its next meeting, to be held July 10 at 6 p.m.