TEMPERANCE — Sixth-graders returning to Bedford Junior High School in January will be in for a nice post-holiday surprise: new Chromebooks.
The Board of Education has approved the purchase of 418 of the computers that rely on Wi-Fi.
The big technology buy is phase 1 of the district’s One to One Learning Initiative, which aims to position Bedford’s schools for the digital age and the eventual fade-out of printed textbooks.
The upcoming computer distribution is the talk of the school system, where classes start Tuesday.
“This initiative allows our students a 21st-century learning experience that prepares them for a world beyond the Bedford Public Schools,” said Edward Manuszak, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and student services.
“It really will set them up for success as they continue their educational journey.”
He noted that in the 2014-15 school year, all Michigan standardized tests will go online, but stressed that this was not the reason the One to One program was adopted.
The board authorized the purchase of 418 of the devices for a total cost of $123,882.66. Enough laptops have been ordered for the expected 363 students and another 55 of the devices will be kept on standby in case of breakdowns.
Funds come from the Bedford district’s share of the Monroe County school technology levy.
The Chromebooks, so called because they use the Google Chrome operating system, are cloud-based.
They will belong to the school system but be assigned to students, who will be able to take them home as they do textbooks.
And the same policy regarding lost or damaged textbooks is to apply. Students are responsible, although officials plan to arrange some sort of inexpensive group insurance, according to Doug Kohler, district director of information services.
The district chose the Acer C710 model because of its $259.88 price and specifications, Mr. Kohler said.
“We had a bid process, and Acer met all the specifications and had the lowest price,” he explained.
The laptop has a 16-gigabyte solid-state drive and an 11-inch screen with 1024-by-768 pixel resolution. The purchase price includes cases and the Google Chromebook management license.
The Chromebooks come equipped with a Web cam because a lot of school projects use cameras and microphones; these features will enable conferencing with students in other classrooms. The Chromebook’s wireless N standard is fast enough to support streaming video without interruption, although the slower A and B standards probably will be used at school and home, Mr. Kohler said. Battery life is about six hours.
The Chromebooks are being distributed in January to give the teachers sufficient time to train and develop lesson plans that use them.
Informational sessions also will be held for parents at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24, Oct. 24, and Nov. 21. Parental attendance is required on Nov. 21. The next Chromebook distribution will be in 2014-15 to fourth and fifth graders.
The district also has upgraded its digital infrastructure, using a Michigan Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grant and county technology millage money to improve its wireless connectivity in all school buildings.
Mr. Manuszak said he hopes the Chromebooks have the added benefit of stabilizing the district’s declining enrollment.
“Once the buzz gets out that Bedford is distributing computers, I think families will move back and our student population will increase,” he predicted.
Contact Carl Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6095.