The Washington School District is now in its fifth year of the iBelieve 1:1 Initiative which has placed a Chromebook in the hands of every student in grades five through 12.
During the school year, students are allowed to take their devices home each evening so learning can continue outside of the school walls.
The school board recently approved the purchase of new Chromebooks and cases for incoming fifth- and ninth-grade students.
The board approved the low bid of $214,125 from GovConnection for the devices, and the low bid of $13,412.17 from Bump Armor for the cases.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the initiative ensures educational equity for all of students and provides teachers with instructional resources appropriate with the modern era.
The district has moved to a 1:1 (one student/one device) environment over time. The year 2014 marked the beginning of the digital conversion.
At that time, all teaching staff received laptop computers. The following year, the district began a phased-in approach to give Chromebooks to students in specific grades.
In 2016, the district purchased the devices for grades five, nine, 10, 11 and 12. Sixth grade was added the following year.
In 2018, grade seven was added and the district purchased devices for use in the fourth-grade classrooms, and then in 2019, the goal was reached of being 1:1 in grades three-12.
Students in grades three and four only use the Chromebooks in the classrooms. These devices are not taken home.
To overcome some of the initial startup costs associated with such a large purchase of devices, VanLeer said the district used a combination of phased-in purchases, along with leases of some devices.
The leases helped keep costs down for devices that were leased for less than four years. Phasing the program in over a number of years also helped with cost control.
Currently, students are issued a device in fifth grade, and they keep that device through the eighth grade. When the students start ninth grade, they are issued a new device which they keep through the 12th grade.
This way the district is only purchasing two grade levels of devices each year.
At the end of the device’s four-year cycle, leased devices are cleaned and checked, and then sent back to the leasing company.
Purchased devices are evaluated for functionality, school officials said, and some may be kept for loaner devices, supplementing in the kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms, or even kept for spare parts.
Devices deemed not suitable for retention are sold via competitive bid through the GovDeals website.
VanLeer said the devices are purchased after careful consideration of the brands and models available on the market each year, paying special attention to cost, durability and availability of replacement parts.
Once a device is chosen, the technology department seeks bids from at least three different vendors to ensure the district is making the most economical purchase possible while ensuring product quality.
Students and parents are offered the option to purchase insurance for the devices. This insurance is provided through AJ Gallagher Risk Management and helps to defer the cost to the parent should a breakage or loss of device occur.
AJ Gallagher collects an annual premium of $20 for parents who wish to enroll. Parents with multiple students receive a discount of $5 for each subsequent student they enroll.
School officials said the funds collected help offset the district’s purchase of replacement parts or devices, so the parent is charged less for those repairs and replacements.