From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Steve Brandt, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Paul Levy and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

St. Paul begins assembling details of iPad rollout

Posted by: Anthony Lonetree Updated: June 18, 2014 - 7:27 PM

The first year of a two-year plan to put iPads in the hands of all St. Paul students could result in the district paying up to $5.5 million to lease devices in 2014-15, a district official said Wednesday.

The school board is expected to vote on the lease agreement during its monthly meeting Tuesday.

Matt Mohs, the district's chief academic officer, said students at about half of the district's schools could expect to have iPads by early next year, under the plan. Getting the iPad effort rolling would require the district to lease 28,000 iPads for students and teachers, plus an additional 1,400 laptops for teachers, in 2014-15, Mohs said.

In 2015-16, when the iPad project is expected to be fully operating -- with all district students having devices -- the annual lease cost would rise to about $8 million, Mohs said.

He estimated the lease cost for the upcoming school year at between $5 million and $5.5 million, and said that the funding, if approved by the school board next week, would come from a $9-million-per-year technology initiative approved by voters in 2012.

That initiative, dubbed "Personalized Learning Through Technology," was initially intended to produce a "teaching and learning platform," or Facebook-like Web page, through which teachers and students could interact. Last month, however, the district pulled the plug on that project, citing difficulties in getting a platform to work quickly and efficiently enough, and set out to supply students with devices, instead.

Mohs said then that the district intended to take advantage of advancements made in the use of iPads for learning. Providing the devices to all students also would ensure that minority and low-income students were on equal footing with technology, he said.

At a committee meeting last week, school board member John Brodrick warned that the change in direction, if not done right, could be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

It wasn't until Wednesday that the district offered any cost projections.

Mohs said that under the lease arrangement, the devices would cost the district between $100 and $125 per student per year, or a little more than 1 percent of the revenue that a student generates annually.

The district still is working on a list of which schools will be covered in the first year. Also still to be determined is what happens if a student loses or breaks a device. Some districts, Mohs said, have family insurance plans, "but we're really not sure if that works for St. Paul." 

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