WCCSD moves forward with iPad plan

The Webster City Community School District is moving forward with a planned one-to-one technology initiative that will put iPad tablet computers in the hands of all students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

Several plans for the program were presented at Tuesday’s meeting of the district Board of Directors. The plan recommended by Superintendent Mike Sherwood has the district giving iPads to students in second to 12th grade and iPad minis for use by pre-kindergarten to first grade. The smaller iPad mini model is functionally similar to the larger model, but has a smaller screen size according to director of technology Mark Murphy.

Another plan calls for iPad minis to be given to students in pre-kindergarten to fourth grade, and regular models to higher grade level students. However, Sherwood said the smaller model would be less ideal for state testing in second grade and up that could be delivered digitally through those tablets.

Each plan is on a four-year basis, and the first year costs of each plan are the steepest. That is because of the initial fees the project incurs, including software and cases for all tablets. The first year cost of the recommended plan, which gives regular iPads to students in second grade and up, is $450,000 the first year, and $240,000 for the next three years. The other plan, which calls for iPad minis to be used up to fourth grade, would cost $430,000 the first year, and $225,000 for the next three years. Sherwood said there are several reasons for the four-year rotation.

“It makes it a little more fundable, and to think about technology beyond four years might be a stretch,” Sherwood said. “The iPad is the device of choice for this round, but at the end of four years, who knows what choice that would be?”

Both programs also call for classroom sets of iPads for pre-kindergarten classes, rather than giving students tablets on an individual basis.

Sherwood said the district is currently looking into funding sources for the initiative. A couple options mentioned at the meeting were rerouting money that was going to be spent on replacing desktop computers at the school, and using instructional support levy money. Murphy said the district is also looking to get a discount on the tablets for a bulk order.

The board did not approve a plan at the meeting, but voted to continue moving forward with the initiative. A plan will be approved at a later date, and Murphy said he thinks the program rollout will begin in October.

In other business, the board continued reviewing fees for the next school year. The board chose to continue to not charge a registration fee and voted to keep the same student and adult activity fees for the next school year. However, the board is considering textbook fees in order to recoup the money the district will spend on iPad software during the technology initiative rollout. Sherwood said the software on the devices is legally owned by the student, and not the district. No decision was made on whether or not to charge those fees.

The board also approved a PTO proposal that will allow the organization to operate the Nokomis Park concession stand this summer. A representative from the organization said the concession stand will incur no fees for the district aside from electricity costs. They plan to have the stand open for six to eight weeks this summer and plan to offer snacks such as popcorn and frozen items and beverages. The money raised at the stand will go toward the PTO safe-surface project.