Edgerton pushes for iPads in class
EDGERTON The Edgerton School District plans to waste no time getting itself up to speed with cutting-edge classroom technology.
Tight on the heels of voters approving a $6.3 million spending referendum for technology and building maintenance in November, the district now is proposing a major overhaul in how students will use technology to learn.
Superintendent Dennis Pauli said the school board as early as Monday could act on a plan that eventually could put wireless, touch-screen tablets in the hands of most district students and teachers.
District administrators last week unveiled the plan, which would roll out over five years and include $440,000 of leased and purchased iPad tablets for teachers and students to use in the classroom.
The plan calls for an initial capital layout of $90,000 during the second half of this school year, with the district buying and leasing 730 iPads and iPad Minis for Edgerton High School, Edgerton Middle School and Edgerton's two elementary schools.
The plan, which the district calls a "1 to 1" technology initiative, has been in the works since spring, although discussions were limited mostly to talks between administration and school staff and site tours last year to schools that extensively use iPads for classroom learning, Pauli said.
Last week marked the first time the plan emerged as a proposal. The plan comes before the board deciding on contracts for wireless infrastructure upgrades that will be necessary to support tablet devices in classrooms.
Board President Matt Towns said officials have been working on the iPad program for months, but the district had not trumpeted the plan because it wasn't clear whether the technology referendum would pass.
"First of all, without the referendum, then we don't have wireless in the buildings, then the program is rendered useless," Towns said. "We'd even talked about it last spring, but we were kind of forced to put it on hold because our infrastructure wouldn't handle it."
Wireless infrastructure work won't be completed until February, Pauli said. By then, teachers could be trained and ready to put the iPad program to work in classrooms.
Later this school year, the district's elementary schools could begin using nine to 10 of the devices per classroom, and phase the devices in as teachers see fit, he said.
Meanwhile, some grade levels at the high school and middle school would begin working with the devices in core curriculum classes of math, English, science and history, Pauli said.
"I acknowledge that for some people, it's like, 'Wow, this is going quick,'" Pauli said.
The district has laid aside $1.5 million to replace aging district computer equipment and upgrade all district schools with wireless infrastructure. Yet Pauli and board President Matt Towns said the district plans to spend no referendum money on the iPad program.
"We'd try to keep something like this—electronic devices, which can be viewed as short-term investments—as budgeted purchases. We didn't want to use referendums for those purchases," Towns said.
Instead, the district would pay for the iPad program through grants, common school funds and school-level budgets. Pauli and Towns said each school could offset the program by trimming spending on supplies that would be less necessary, such as new textbooks and copier ink and paper.
"In a sense, the money's already in the budget. There'll be some trimming. The important part is that this is something our teachers and kids are looking forward to," Towns said.
Pauli said that the district could draw from savings from its plan to refinance $2.9 million in district pension debt—another referendum that voters approved in November.
Other area districts such as the Milton School District have made inroads into iPad classrooms.
Milton Middle School has issued an iPad to every student and teacher, and the devices are used in nearly all classroom lessons, school officials have said. Milton's school board is now in talks over whether to expand the program to Milton High School.
Edgerton would phase in the iPad program slowly while the district learns how teachers at different grade levels can best use the devices, Pauli said.
"We want to make sure this is an initiative that they want to move forward with and that we provide the program with adequate staff training," Pauli said.