The Phenix City Board of Education on Thursday took another next step toward giving each student in grades 6-8 a take-home tablet computer next school year when it approved the policy defining acceptable use.
The students and parents/guardians will be asked to sign a contract requiring them to pay the school system an insurance fee of $25 before receiving the device. A $25 deductible will be charged for a first repair and a $50 deductible for a second repair.
If the device is lost, stolen or damaged beyond repair, the student or parent/guardian will be required to pay for a new device ($395), the cover ($50) and the electronic textbooks (expected to be $14.99 apiece). No more than two devices will be provided to a student during one school year. Additional loss may result in forfeiture of use and other penalties at the discretion of the school.
If families can't afford the $25 in one payment, they could pay in installments, Phenix City Superintendent Randy Wilkes said.
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"Can you bring us $5 a month? Can you bring us $2 a month? We'll work out something," he said.
But it must cost the family something, he insisted, based on his experience in Crenshaw County, where Wilkes was the superintendent and each student in grades 8-12 was given a take-home tablet computer.
"If there's not some skin in the game," he said, "they will not take care of it."
Families, however, can opt out.
Wilkes said, "You may have parents say, 'This is not for my child. My child loses everything. I just don't want to do that.' We'll issue them a set of books. That's not a problem. We'll still have textbooks."
Widespread use of the iPads at school would have an added benefit, Wilkes said, eliminating the need for backpacks and reducing the chance of students hiding prohibited items.
In September, Wilkes unveiled his vision for the system to open STEM academies in Phenix City Intermediate School and South Girard School in two years. The overall project was estimated to cost about $1.5 million.
In December, Wilkes told the board the iPad Air 2 is the mobile computer that best seems to meet the school system's needs. He estimated buying devices for 1,500 students and 92 teachers would cost $561,000 or $187,000 annually for a three-year lease.
The iPads will be inventoried and have serial numbers. But breakage, not theft, was the biggest problem students had with the devices in Crenshaw, Wilkes said.
"Ending up at the pawn shop wasn't an issue, but leaving it on top of the car was," he said with a chuckle. "That's not a good place for it, but it happens. Not only did they drive off, but they backed over it. It still worked; you just didn't want to run your finger across the screen."
So learning how to be responsible for a valuable piece of property is another lesson the students will receive. All of which will help the school system maintain affordable insurance rates for the devices.
"Sounds like the real world," Wilkes said, "doesn't it folks?"
The board approved the policy with a 5-0 vote. Paul Stamp and Kelvin Redd were absent.
In another 5-0 vote, the board approved the 2015-16 school calendar. It is the same as the Ledger-Enquirer reported after the board's work session last month.
Compared to this year's calendar, the most significant differences are a longer Thanksgiving break and an earlier Spring break. Here are the highlights:
Aug. 3: First day of work for teachers
Aug. 10: First day of classes for students
Sept. 7: Labor Day holiday
Nov. 11: Veterans Day holiday
Nov. 23-27: Thanksgiving break
Dec. 21-Jan. 6: Winter break (teachers return to work Jan. 6; students return to classes Jan. 7)
Jan. 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday
Feb. 15: Presidents Day holiday
March 21-25: Spring break
May 25: Last day of classes for students
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.