Monroe County Schools plans to issue Chromebooks to all students in next year’s 9th grade class for them to use until they graduate from Mary Persons in 2024. School technology specialists Valerie Mercer and Ronnie Shipman explained the plan to the Board of Education at its March 10 meeting.
Monroe County students already use Chromebooks in many of their classes, but presently the Chromebooks are assigned as classroom sets rather than assigned to students. Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman said this will be flipping the traditional plan of assigning textbooks to students to take home to leaving the textbooks in class and letting the computers go home with students. Like textbooks, students will be accountable for the Chromebooks assigned to them, and they won’t be able to take them home over the summers.
Hickman said maintenance will be done on the devices over the summers just as maintenance on computers assigned to school system teachers is now done in the summer. Mercer said a Chromebook sells for about $179; a secure case for it is about $300. Students will be responsible for replacing or repairing damaged or lost devices. They can buy insurance to cover most possible mishaps; plans for community service will be worked out for those who can’t pay for damaged or lost Chromebooks.
Students will be required to bring their Chromebooks to school charged and ready to use. They will bring their own earbuds. Students who don’t have access to Internet at home will be issued MiFi cards. Mercer said a survey of current 8th graders showed about 80 percent have Internet at home. Mercer said the school-issued Chromebooks will have NetRef, a classroom management and monitoring software that will insure they are used for learning. The school will be able to view website activity and shut down distractions. She said NetRef only monitors activity on the mcschools.org account, however.
Shipman said the lifespan on Chromebooks is about 4 and a half to 5 years, which should carry the 9th graders through graduation, and they have a long battery life and a four-year warranty. He said teachers at Monroe County Schools have been issued the devices for about six years.
“It’s the best device to prepare students for life after school,” said Shipman.
Mercer said the model Monroe County Schools is using for issuing Chromebook is based on that used in Tft County and Newman. Clarke County has also issued Chromebooks to students. She said she hopes to eventually expand the program to Monroe County Middle School. Mercer said Clarke County has had to replace less than 7 percent of the Chromebooks it issued. She added that Clarke County has picked up a few Chromebooks at local pawn shops.