For the second time this summer, District 181 board members turned down a proposed expansion of iPads for student use.
The Board of Education Monday night at chose not to vote on a proposed three-year equipment lease endorsed by director of technology Eric Danley that would have brought in about 420 iPads to replace iMac desktop computers in the district’s computer labs.
The decision not to act came after to implement a one-to-one student-tablet ratio in District 181.
Replacement of the district’s computer labs is the third in a four-phase technology equipment replacement cycle. The first two phases replaced teacher computers and middle school laptop carts, which were last replaced in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The fourth phase would replace elementary school laptop carts.
Danley wrote in a memo to board members before Monday’s meeting that iPads are cheaper than traditional desktop computers.
“Due to the iPad’s lower cost, we can significantly increase the number of devices available for student use and provide greater mobility in support of the MRC’s Learning Commons initiatives,” the memo reads.
The new iPads would have cost the district $62,273.20 per year for three years.
The purchase of iPads proposed Monday was not associated with the @d181 Initiative, which did not garner the support of board members due to its high cost and the unknown educational value of iPads.
"We were pretty clear about not supporting the full iPad rollout until we had some data and broader-based trials to prove that that actually did something and suddenly we have 400 iPads showing up," Board President Michael Nelson said. "That doesn’t feel right to me."
There was also a hesitancy to move away from more than 200 iMacs in the district's labs when a vast majority of them are in "decent condition" according to Danley.
"I would think part of the decision-making process would always be, is this equipment still functional?" board member Glenn Yaeger said. "If it is, we as a board would prefer not to spend money to buy and replace functional equipment."
Danley said the existing functional desktops, which would have been distributed throughout the district's classrooms had the board approved the iPads purchase, will continue to work but won't provide "optimal" performance.
Should desktops begin to fail during the school year, it would cost $700 to repair each failing computer and $1,100 to replace them.
Assistant superintendent for learning Janet Stutz backed the replacement plan.
"I’m concerned that as these machines die out, then that would be less access for our students," she said.
Superintendent Renée Schuster said it's critical that students have the tools they need and that they at least have the same level of technology that they have had in the past.
"You can choose to wait until it breaks or you can chose to be proactive and keep up with maintenance," Schuster said. "That’s all we’re doing."
Nelson suggested that the administration determine the number of desktops that must be replaced immediately and come back to the board with a plan to replace those machines, perhaps even with some combination of laptops and iPads.
Schuster said the administration will return quickly with an adjusted plan.