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Laptops Coming to Wayland High; Scope, Process Remains Under Discussion

A laptop is coming to each student at Wayland High School, but the pace and scope of the initiative could depend on budgets.

students are on schedule to move into a new building early next year and into a new technological era next fall.

“Our vision is that in 2012, next fall, we’d be in a 1-to-1 learning environment – every WHS student having a laptop computer,” said WHS principal Pat Tutwiler during a recent discussion about the 1-to-1 laptop initiative at Wayland High. “It is not about a machine, it is not about an item. It is about learning, it is about reaching kids, it is about education.”

Parents, administrators and others gathered at Wayland High School Nov. 15 to learn more about the initiative to provide every Wayland High School student with a laptop for school and home use. Technology officials within the school system and town are considering a MacBook or MacBook Air as the laptop.

Leisha Simon, director of technology for Wayland Schools, explained that the schools would engage in a four-year lease program rather than purchasing the laptops. Wayland’s Finance Committee has already begun the process of moving computer expenses from the capital to the operating budget; therefore, renting rather than purchasing the equipment is a viable option.

Simon estimated the annual hardware cost for renting the equipment at $200,000. Wayland Schools already owns licenses for much of the necessary software. The Town’s FY12 omnibus budget allotted $300,000 total ($100,000 in operating and $200,000 in capital) for the replacement of outdated computers for labs, laptop carts, offices and classrooms. The $100,000 in the operating budget was funded through the schools’ utility savings.

Superintendent Paul Stein said at the presentation that the School Committee planned to work within the FY13 budget guidelines provided by the FinCom while working to put the 1-to-1 initiative in place.

“I don’t have an intention at this point for 2013 in asking for additional dollars,” Stein told the group gathered at the information session. “There may be a little bit of shifting in budgets. The thing we’re grappling with now is not whether or not there’s going to be a 1-to-1 initiative in the budget … [it] is can we do the whole thing or do we need to phase it in.”

Students and teachers at the info session spoke of the importance and usefulness of computers in the educational environment, but Tutwiler was quick to point out that computers do not take the place of solid teaching nor will they automatically increase test scores or grades.

“While I won’t say you’ll see higher test scores … I see this as a natural next step for Wayland High School,” Tutwiler said, pointing out that a 1-to-1 teacher to computer ratio has been in place for about three years. “This is not a fad, this is part of the way we do curriculum instruction these days.”

In addition to what could be considered “typical” high school curriculum, Simon pointed out that providing the students with computers would allow them to develop basic computer skills – research, updating software, backing up files, etc. – that are critical as they move to a college environment or into the workplace.

The schools are hoping to create a student-staffed “Genius Bar” that would allow students with particular interest and aptitude to learn advanced computer troubleshooting skills and serve as computer techs for their classmates.

“We want the students to be responsible for managing and learning the technology,” Simon said. “To be responsible to do the updates … to have those skills when they go off to college.”

While the fine details of the initiative remain under discussion, Simon said the initiative would require students to sign an acceptable use agreement as the computers would be theirs to carry home, load with music and photos, and otherwise use as both their personal and school computer. Furthermore, an optional insurance fee of about $35 per year would be presented to parents, which would cover normal problems or wear-and-tear. If the parent foregoes the insurance, a deductible of $50-$250 could be assessed.

As for the computer carts and equipment already present at Wayland High School, Simon said those resources would be passed on to other schools in the system.

“There’s no turning back,” Simon said. “The momentum is here … we need to keep that momentum going. It’s the present; it’s what’s happening today.”

Stein is scheduled to present his FY13 budget to the School Committee on Dec. 19.

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