NORTH STONINGTON – For the past three years, school administrators and members of the Board of Education have worked to implement a long-term plan to provide every high school student in the district with a Chromebook that they will use throughout their time at Wheeler High School can. The effort has finally become a reality.
The district officially launched a new 1-to-1 technology program on Tuesday that will provide students with both the hardware and software they need to learn, grow, and succeed in a digital-based world. Headmaster Peter L. Nero said this week that the goal of the program is to provide students with a system that they can use every four years before taking it with them as a portfolio when they begin their adult lives.
“This is a program that we have the opportunity to do because of some of the circumstances created by the pandemic,” Nero said. “The program is designed so that when students enter 9th grade, they receive the Chromebook that serves as a notebook that they can take with them wherever they go.”
The district began implementing the program before the March 2020 COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across the country to close their doors at the end of the 2019-20 school year and previous school years and the formal 1-on-1 program, where students can keep the Chromebook.
As future needs became clearer at the end of the 2019/20 school year and the district was able to review spending, business manager Deborah Martin said savings were seen from reduced transportation and operational costs due to the move to distance learning. The funds were then used to purchase 429 Chromebooks, enough to provide one for each grades 9-12 student.
The purchase, which included purchasing an insurance policy for the devices and cases for each Chromebook, cost approximately $ 182,000. Each Chromebook is worth about $ 300 and has a life expectancy of four years.
Education committee member David McCord said upfront costs would not carry over year on year. Instead, he said the smaller school population will allow the district to update the program and provide a Chromebook to each new freshman and high school student each year at an estimated annual cost of $ 20,000. McCord and Nero both credit IT director Greg Pond with helping implement the Chromebook upgrade plan.
“We have been working to get this to this point for several years now, and it’s exciting to see it finally come to fruition,” said McCord. “The board has remained loyal to these efforts and will continue to develop.”
The intent was to start the program there and expand it to middle school in the future, but Nero and Martin said unexpected government aid as a result of the pandemic – some of which was necessary to keep students safe in North Stonington and across the state had the technology to learn from home – and provided the district with 308 additional Chromebooks for the district’s students to use.
This also allows the district to provide a Chromebook to every middle school student in the district. Those Chromebooks, which include the state-provided Chromebooks that do not have the same insurance options, must be returned at the end of the school year.
Wheeler’s director Kristen St. Germain said the program will provide some students with potential advancement by providing both practical guidance and the tools to move forward before moving into their postgraduate life.
“There are a number of advantages. This is a platform for students to post all of their work on, and if for any reason they can’t be in school, it’s a direct line back to class, ”said St. Germain.
She noted that the Chromebook can be slow and out of date for high school students to use after the four years and would generate very little revenue if sold.
“We’re incredibly grateful to have this opportunity, and the students are excited and grateful too,” she said.