MONROE – Union County Public Schools expects to receive 25,500 new Lenovo Chromebook laptops to distribute to students.
UCPS lends a laptop to every student grades 6-12 as part of its “1 to 1” access model to enhance education and stay current with changing times.
The new Chromebooks, selected last year, use an internet-based operating system and don’t allow the user to actually download or execute any files.
Every K-2 classroom in the system will receive 150 of the old Lenovos as supplemental devices – amounting to 4,500 for the whole system – and 1,500 more will be kept for replacements. UCPS doesn’t plan on buying any more parts or doing repairs for the last model.
Administration hopes to sell the rest of the old devices as surplus for about $200,000, or $13 per unit.
The all-new Lenovos provide a fresh start – an opportunity that some members of the school board’s committee on Strategic Planning & Technology want to seize, to reevaluate how the laptops are distributed.
In the past five years, individual schools in the system have been allowed to decide whether to return the devices to the students who used them the previous year, or to just arbitrarily redistribute them.
School board member Melissa Merrell advanced the discussion about keeping laptops for longer than one school year at a July 25 committee meeting.
“Maybe you’ll take better care of it if you know that you’re gonna have it through 12th grade,” Merrell said. “And maybe they’ll have more ownership and responsibility in taking care of this device – as opposed to a student that is conscientious and has taken care of their device for 10 months, and then they return it in August, and they get a device that someone did not take good care of for 10 months.”
Merrell even mentioned taking the student-laptop relationship one step further, suggesting students be allowed to use the same laptop through summer breaks instead of returning them annually.
“I think now is the perfect time for the board to decide that, especially for our high school students who are doing ACT prep, SAT prep, taking online courses through UC virtual, NC virtual, SPCC,” Merrell said. “This is important for our high school students. When they’re turning them in in June. There’s a lot of online courses they could be taking. There’s a lot of tools that we’re spending money on that… during the school months, they may not have time to work on.”
Chief Technology Officer Jay Parker didn’t disagree with the idea, but emphasized the significance of the time UCPS has with the laptops during summer.
“We undertake an effort of cleaning all the stickers off, or anything that students put on there to identify as theirs,” Parker said about the current system. “Because when you get in a room full of the same exact model – same exact device – a lot of students like to put on some kind of removable stickers, and sometimes those stickers don’t come off completely. We clean them up, we update the Google version on them and update the [operating system].”
UCPS wants to preserve the new Chromebooks’ condition and get the most out of them, because they plan to use them for the next five years.