Platteville seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students will be getting iPads for school this fall.
The Platteville School Board voted Monday night to spend $200,000 to implement the pilot phase of the school district’s One-to-One Student Technology Purchase and Program.
About 340 students will be receiving the iPads, which district superintendent Connie Valenza said have “the most accessibility for instructional software,” along with being “probably the best at preventing any kind of virus-downloading.”
The iPads will give students “the ability to engage more interactive curriculum; it is not curriculum,” said Valenza. “It will provide equal access to those students who do not have access to technology in their homes.”
Some iPad software does not need Internet access for students to use it, Valenza said.
The school district will fund $200,000 of the program through its fund balance, with the rest in the school district’s 2013–14 budget. Valenza said if the pilot program is successful, it probably will be expanded to sixth through 12th grades.
The school board’s 8–0 vote — board member Monie Konecny was absent — came after an hour of questions from board members.
“We recognize that this is a significant commitment,” said Valenza.
Board member Abulkhair Masoom asked about assessment in such areas as standardized tests.
“I want to see our scores remain as high as we used to be,” he said. “I want to be able to say when I talk to my neighbors, this was a great investment.”
“I’ve been very clear that this needs to improve student achievement,” said Valenza, who mentioned test scores, increased attendance and graduation rates, and improving transition between schools.
She added, however, “It’s going to be difficult to know that this improves achievement. We have many initiatives going on. There are overall expectations that achievement improves. … It’s very difficult because there will be many other things going on at the same time.”
Valenza and teachers who attended the School Board meeting said students who use technology are more engaged in their class work.
Middle School English/language arts teacher Jay Gesin said students in La Crosse, where Platteville teachers visited to view a similar program, spent more time on their homework because they had more access to their homework.
Middle School reading teacher Caitlyn Rosemeyer sees “the benefit of extending literacy across all curriculum areas.” She said students’ reading and language skills are not as good outside reading and language classes in school as they are in reading and language class.
Board member Heather Connolly asked how special academic areas would be able to use One-to-One.
“Students are always authentically creating,” said Middle School music teacher Marcia Russell. “I think we can enhance it. I think there’s not a question we can use it.”
Seventh-grade special education teacher Chris Bowers said her class already uses iPads for speech-to-text and text-to-speech conversions and audiobooks.
“Regardless of their disability, they work with them,” she said.
To a question about continuing costs from board member Steve Obershaw, Valenza said the school district already has budgeted such IT costs as replacing computers before this program, and the current IT budget should cover “most ongoing costs.”
“We don’t want to keep tapping our fund balance,” she said, but “as with every other form of technology, we’ll have to find a way to budget — whenever you make decisions to change curriculum, there are cost decisions.”
“The fund balance is meant for one-time expenses like that,” said school district Business Manager Art Beaulieu.
School district IT manager Bill Grutz said the program would eventually produce savings in textbooks, paper and electric power.