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School District Leases 350 Laptops for Technology Initiative

A laptop program has been in the works for freshman at Menomonee Falls High School, and the School Board inked a deal with a company to lease the technology.

Falls freshman are taking a bold step into the next century, and will be the first class in the district to utilize laptops as part of the curriculum.

The laptop initiative has been in discussion for nearly a year at the School Board level, and Monday marked the day they agreed to the dollars and cents for the project.

The district agreed to a lease and purchase agreement for 350 laptops through Providence Capital Network. The lease will cost the district roughly $188,000, which has already been incorporated into the 2012-13 budget. Residents ratified the tax levy in September.

The district will lease the laptops with cases for three years, and Providence guarantees a minimum buyback of $100 per laptop at the end of the term. The $35,000 will be used to payback the remaining balance on the lease. The district could reap more dollars through the buyback program, and anything in excess of $100 per computer will go back to district coffers.

The district agreed to a three-year lease because battery life on the devices is projected at three years.  It also allows flexibility for future growth of the initiative.

“Leasing would be the best option in terms of planning future budgets, and future expansion of the project,” said Director of Business Services Jeff Gross.

After three years, the laptops could be sold to families in the district at fair market value as well.

The decision to bring laptops into ninth grade classrooms has been on the agenda for the school board for much of last year. It has followed the nationwide trend of encouraging technological literacy in schools. The plan is to implement the program this fall.

The laptops could reduce the need to purchase textbooks and computer labs, which would offset the cost of the laptop initiative.

If the program is successful, administrators plan to expand it within three years. The current plan is that the second phase would bring laptops to the rest of the high school while the third would extend laptop use down to sixth grade.

Steve ® October 23, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Does the plans include IT support and what brand did they sign with?
Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) October 23, 2012 at 10:10 AM
Well it looks like once again our valued education system has failed from the start by using laptops instead of tablets. Do kids even want to use something without a touchscreen?
KC October 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Will they be getting the laptops any time in the future? A test group got them about 3 weeks ago and the rest of the freshman class has not gotten them yet.
Steve ® October 23, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Touchscreens suck to do any actual work on. I need a keyboard for efficiency.
Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) October 23, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I agree Steve, but we're talking about the children. Long live the mouse, as well.
Jann October 23, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I'm all for modern technology, but I don't think all students have wireless internet in their homes. If this program extends to more grades a family could have 3 children needing internet access at once. Also, is the excuse sorry teacher my internet was down going to replace sorry teacher my dog ate my homework? If a student forgets their book at school and doesn't do their homework, that's the students fault, but what if the excuse is the internet?
Steve ® October 23, 2012 at 07:20 PM
The school and library provide free internet access. Not to mention I haven't met anyone under 70 that does not have Internet these days.
Jann October 23, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Steve, I'm talking about homework. You know like on the weekends or when you have a snow day. The Menomonee Falls public library is closed on Sundays and my internet is down all the time during rain and snow storms. Also, yes most people have internet service but not all have wireless which is what I was talking about. Do you think that most inner city students that come to the Falls can afford wireless?
Craig October 23, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Falls teachers have been using internet sites like Turnitin.com and the like for a few years now. The sites automatically grade the students work, so it is becoming more popular. I had the experience of one of these sites crashing while my student was doing the assignment, fortunately the site came back online in enough time to finish the assignment. I have an issue with an autograde website, as the teacher doesn't actually see the student's work. Case in point: Plageurism is scored on these assignments. My student had a 70% plageurism rate on one assignment. When the teacher pointed out how great this new site was for catching cheaters, my student asked why is the site calling my citations with footnotes palgeurism? The teacher then actually read a hard copy of the work and agreed, the site was messed up. Needless to say they changed to a different autograded system. With new technology will come new challenges, parents beware, teach your kids not to trust the sites and use a jump drive for everything to prove you did the work!
Steve ® October 24, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Why does it have to be wireless? And if that is a need a wireless router is cheap. Why are we always pandering to parents that do not invest in their children? Cable and dsl Internet are not effected by weather. We had study hall in school, I'm pretty sure they still have that.
Carl Engelking October 24, 2012 at 12:44 AM
That is a good point though Jann. The economy is tough, paid lunch program use is on the rise, reliance on the resources at the Menomonee Falls Area Food Pantry are growing. There are certainly families that may have difficulty accessing the Internet at home. It's a good question, and I'll ask if district leaders considered it in discussions about the program.
dave October 24, 2012 at 12:55 AM
If you let the students purchase the old laptops for fair market value at the end of the lease, doesn't that reduce the amount of cash left over to pay down the original lease and pump up the overall cost? Who determines the "fair market value" after 3 years - if these units are worth more than $100.00 I would be suprised - no student is going to take care of a leased unit as carefully as a laptop purchased by his parents.
Jann October 24, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Steve, wouldn't it need to be wireless if there was more than one student in the house needing access? The router may be cheap to you and I, but not everyone can afford it or figure out how to install it. Study hall still exists, but students who have one study hall will not finish all the homework they have during that 45 minute period. I have Time Warner cable and internet. Its down quite often during high winds and storms. Not a ringing endorsement for them for sure, but it does happen. Look at what Carl posted. Some students can't even afford lunch and I have a feeling that many don't pay the annual student fees that I always paid for my kids. So how can they buy internet and a wireless router plus set up for it? I just think it's something to consider. One of my kids did sports and had to take the books to games and meets because he left before school ended and often got home after 10 at night. He and his teammates did their homework during down time at the meets. How do you do that with a laptop and no book? Nobody ever stole my sons school books at the meet, but a laptop.......whom.
Jann October 24, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Oops see what tecnology made me do. That should have been hmmm not whom.
Craig October 24, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Carl: The paid lunch handout is overly advertised, they practically beg people to sign up for it. I am curious if there is any verification of eligibility?
Let's Roll October 24, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Jann, let's not make improvement the enemy of perfect.
Jann October 24, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I just don't want to end up having to subsidize internet service to students who can't afford it. I think there are some definate advantages to keeping the books around. When I was a kid we went "up north" a lot on weekends and had to take our homework along. A lot can get done on a 300 mile car trip. And we still do not have internet service at our cottage and can't get cell phone coverage either.
Steve ® October 24, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I still don't like the idea of dumbing everyone down just to pander to the lowest denominator. Wireless routers are in the $30 range now. You can add one to your time warner bill for a few dollars/mo. If you can not figure out how to use and setup the wireless router you are in a world of trouble, it couldn't be simpler. We want our kids to compete when they leave the house right? We are buying these laptops to teach them already outdated technology whats the point. If you can not afford $30 for a wireless router or want to live like it's 1950 then you can use the already in place method. Hook that LAN cord into the router/modem and hook it to the laptop. Need more than one computer, get a splitter or your modem/router already has at least 4 ports in the back. If they replace the books you turn the laptop on at the meet. They all have cell phones already to protect. If you can't afford lunch at school you can use the internet the school provides, head to the library, heck even McDonalds has free WIFI We'll never get ahead if we keep pandering to the bad decision making parents.
Steve ® October 24, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Those books were super expensive. And I don't think that you need internet access to access it digitally. It should be on their computer as a PDF or similar. I agree we shoudl not subsidize internet services there are way too many options out there already to receive it for free.
Jann October 24, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Steve, Time Warner cable prices start at $35.00 a month. If people can't afford lunch for their kids I'm sure this cost would be a hardship. I hooked up my own wireless, but I think you are kidding yourself if you think everyone is capable of doing it. If the digital books can be accessed without internet, that would solve a lot of problems. However I have a feeling there may be a lot of stolen laptops at track meets etc. I doubt anyone is interested in stealing a text book. And just an FYI, the McDonalds on Appleton in the Falls is not at all student friendly, so you'd get kicked out of that one if you were not continuously ordering something.
Annie E October 25, 2012 at 05:57 AM
@ Nuitari. My children both have tablet computers which they use for schoolwork. They have the option of using the touch screen with stylus as well as the conventional keyboard. I have observed them using these tablets like a conventional laptop far more than as a tablet with the stylus. For most assignments it's just easier and more practical.
Craig October 26, 2012 at 02:14 AM
$19.99/ Month for TWC internet.
Jann October 29, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Craig, I had to call Time Warner today because I got a notice in my bill saying that effective next bill I will be charged a monthly fee of $3.95 to borrow their modem. I wanted to make sure they were talking about the wired modem which I've had for years now that is probably not worth anything. They confirmed that all customers with a Time Warner modem will get this monthly charge. I asked about the $20 per month internet rate showing online and was told that is for new customers only and you will basically get jacked up after 12 months to the higher rates. Time to go out and purchase our own wired modem so we won't get charged the fee.

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