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Menomonee Falls School District plans laptop pilot program

Freshman would pay $10, plus cover damages

June 11, 2012

Menomonee Falls - The Menomonee Falls School District is moving toward digital education.

To advance this effort, incoming freshmen for the 2012-2013 school year will have the opportunity to participate in a technological pilot program.

The School Board Finance and Auxiliary Services Committee approved a $10 fee for incoming freshmen who choose to use a laptop provided by the district. They also approved the cost to students or parents should their laptop be damaged, stolen, lost or have an internal problem. The School Board has the final say in the fees and is expected to vote on the item June 25.

The district is testing the success of the program, including the fees, damage co-payments and devices, with the incoming freshmen class.

After researching school districts across the country, Jeff Nenning, director of technology and assessment, proposed a $10 annual payment to defray mobile device maintenance costs, which will be due before a student receives the device. Some districts charge $50 per laptop, which is covered fully by insurance. However, few students in those districts actually used the insurance.

Nenning said they decided to have a lower annual fee and charge students on a per-incident basis should something happen to the device.

"Instead of charging a higher fee, we would reward people who do not have damage," he said.

Co-pays for accidents

If accidental damage occurs, an incident "co-payment" of $20 will apply. For intentional damage, the entire cost will fall on the student or the legal guardian. Internal malfunctions are covered by the computer's warranty.

If a device is lost or stolen, the student, parent or legal guardian are financially liable for the laptop, which costs $600. Low-income families will have financial assistance, similar to the free and reduced lunch qualifications.

Business Manager Jeff Gross said they wanted to keep the fee low for students in the pilot year; however, the district can choose to buy into an insurance program in the future. With insurance, the annual fee would be about $35.

"Our thought process was to keep the price low," Gross said. "This is a pilot year for one grade and we could buy into the insurance program in the future."

Designed for school use

The device is a Lenovo laptop designed specifically for schools and runs a Windows program. The district chose a device with an 11.6 inch screen because a student focus group determined that's what they prefer. Nenning said the laptops have reinforced sides and top. There is also a tray inside that catches water and drains it out, providing added protection. Students will also be given laptop cases.

"We tested and tried it," Nenning said. "It's a new unit they're putting out and there's quite a call for it across the state."

Students can choose not to have the device, or bring their own to school; however, they would not have access to school printers or the district's network from their personal devices.

Before the 2012-2013 school year begins, the details of the program will be fully communicated to parents of incoming freshmen.

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