[Correction: The proposal to be voted on at the meeting Jan. 28 is for Chromebooks for the high school only. EG Patch regrets the error.]
The agenda for Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting lists under action items “f. Approval of 1:1 Technology.” The decision could alter the way school is taught in East Greenwich and would cost around $725,000 to implement this September.
The proposal would put Google Chromebooks into the hands of students in grades 6 through 12. The device would be school property but, much like a textbook, a student would have sole use of it and be able to take it home.
At the School Committee's Dec. 17 meeting, Supt. Victor Mercurio said a decision on the plan was needed soon, for two reasons: budgetary (the school department is currently working on next year’s budget) and planning (the teacher-training timetable he presented in December had training starting in January).
Mercurio has proposed the district buy the Chromebooks outright. At a meeting of the EGSD Tech Advisory Committee Jan. 10, members suggested Mercurio also look into a leasing program. At issue is how to pay to refresh the devices, which would presumably become outdated within three years. It’s unclear if Mercurio will present both options Tuesday night.
Three members of the seven-member School Committee sit on the Tech Advisory Committee – Susan Records, Jack Sommer and Clark Smith. Records and Sommer have publicly expressed their support for 1:1 implementation.
Smith has not specifically weighed in, nor have members David Green (chair), and Carolyn Mark.
School Committee member Deidre Gifford asked in December and at earlier meetings how implementation of a 1:1 policy had leap-frogged other issues, such as all-day kindergarten or mentoring new teachers.
“It’s not an either-or proposition – it’s just a matter of time,” said School Committee member Jack Sommer at the Jan. 10 tech advisory meeting. “We haven’t done the work [on all-day kindergarten], we haven’t done the budgeting. Is it something we’d like to do? Of course, but it requires planning.”
In addition, Gifford has asked repeatedly for evidence that 1:1 programs enhance student achievement.
Member Mary Ellen Winters said at the meeting Dec. 17 she thought she could back 1:1 for high school students and possibly middle school students, but questioned the idea that the policy could be expanded in future years to encompass the elementary grades.
There is no plan as yet for 1:1 implementation for grades K-5. In West Warwick, however, 1:1 began in September at Wakefield Hills Elementary School. (Read more about that program here).
A vote to approve the 1:1 program would allow for hard numbers to be added to the school budget. That budget, however, would still need to be passed by the Town Council. The council does not weigh in on specific EGSD line items but does control the schools’ total budget allocation.The School Committee meets Tuesday in the library at Cole Middle School, at 7 p.m.