EP plans major expenditure for students: technology

EAST PALESTINE – The village school district is using permanent improvement funds to purchase laptops for its students over the next three years.

The district has already purchased 100 of the Acer laptops, which Superintendent George Fisk said cost roughly $400 a piece.

The laptops will be given to eighth and ninth grade students first, beginning next school year, and teachers in those grades spent a recent in-service day getting acquainted with the new technology. The entire teaching staff will be trained sometime in June, Fisk said.

The laptops will be given to students in grades 10-12 over the following two years, with all students using them by the 2016-17 school year, he said.

The district is calling the implementation “One: To the World,” and students will be allowed to take the laptops home and use them throughout the year, but must turn them back in at the end of the school year.

Fisk explained the technology is making it easier for students to have opportunities they may not have had as easily years ago, including landing jobs not only in others areas of the country, but internationally.

Joe Warchol, the district’s technology director through the county’s educational service center, said staff have already begun building online curriculum using Moodle, a free educational web application.

The courses can be accessed on the district’s webpage, www.myepschools.org., but only viewable by students and staff using a username and password.

The coursework accessible to students includes a syllabus and course schedule for the entire year, including assignments and reading lists. Teachers can also upload their PowerPoint presentations for students to view later, to refresh their memories.

Board of Education member Ron Novak asked how the technology would affect in-class learning and interaction with teachers if they are using a laptop the entire time.

Warchol said that because students would have the opportunity to complete assignments at home ahead of time they would have more time to interact in class.

“Kids can now do stuff at their own pace. That can free up time for other things,” he said.

He added the laptops are not required to be used in classes every day, although he hopes they will replace textbooks eventually.

Fisk said the benefit of relying on curriculum accessible by technology is that it is always up-to-date, whereas physical textbooks being used by students are sometimes at least 10 years old.

One woman attending the board of education meeting asked how implementation would affect classes with mixed grades, since not all grades would be given the technology at the same time.

Warchol responded the district is “entertaining the possibility” of allowing students to bring their own devices, or providing a laptop cart that could be used in those situations.

The district is anticipating spending $105,000 on the laptops over the three years, with $70,000 spent the first two years and $35,000 the third year, since as students graduate the district will not need to purchase new ones.

The district can use permanent improvement funding for items with at least a five-year life expectancy, Fisk said.