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Apple deal gives all Elizabeth Forward students, faculty iPads

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 7:28 a.m.

Elizabeth Forward students in all grade levels will be issued a computer when they return to school from summer break.

On Wednesday, the school board unanimously approved a leasing agreement with Apple that will provide iPad mini devices to all children in kindergarten through second grade, and iPads to students in all other grades.

The lease will deliver an iPad and laptop computer to all teachers and district administrators, and an iPad to all school board members.

The annual payment for the lease is not to exceed $550,000 per year.

“We're changing the culture of our district,” said Superintendent Bart Rocco, who has been a strong proponent of bringing technology into classrooms.

He said he believes parents will see the educational value of technology when their children bring the devices home.

The district has used various computing devices in all grade levels for years. Take-home computer options, however, have been available only on a limited basis at the high school.

Until now, the district has purchased its computers.

District technology director Mary Beth Wiseman said leasing should be more cost effective and keep more up-to-date equipment in classrooms.

Though the term of the lease is four years, Wiseman said the plan is to give back equipment to the manufacturer every two years while it still has resale value, and apply that to the lease fee on new equipment.

District officials estimated that will mean an annual saving of about $50,000 on the lease.

Approximately 2,700 devices will be issued, according to the district.

The district owns about 2,100 computing devices. Wiseman said Apple will purchase some of that equipment, with the money from the sale being applied to this year's fee.

The annual fee includes insurance and maintenance for the equipment and training for employees.

Parents and students will be required to sign an accountability agreement at the time the devices are issued.

School director Margaret Morgan said the district needs to be prepared for parents who don't want to sign off on such an agreement.

School officials said that, in those cases, the student would have the option of leaving the computer at school.

Wiseman said she doesn't expect that loss, breakage or theft will be a major problem, noting that Blairsville-Saltsburg School District, which has a similar program, reported it had only seven broken units out of 800 devices issued to students last year.

Wiseman said she would prefer allowing students to take their devices home over the summer so they could keep learning during the break.

Rocco said policies that address the program will be brought to the August school board meeting.

Devices will be equipped with learning and content filtering software.

They will be outfitted with anti-theft and loss software.

There was talk at the meeting of contacting Comcast about Internet discount rates it offers to families who qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

Wiseman said much of the learning software can be operated without an Internet connection.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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