It's finally here; the excitement of a new school year is starting to set in at Blue Earth Area. But, this year the excitement may be caused by more than just starting classes.
The students and staff might be getting excited about every student receiving a brand new Chromebook as a part of the new 1:1 Program which was projected to cost up to $400,000 for the school district.
The usual back to school open house, which was held Wednesday, Aug. 27, served a dual purpose as all of the high schoolers could pick up the Chromebook which they will use for the rest of the school year.
"We had about 460 devices ready to go for that night,"?high school principal Rich Schneider says.
Those 460 Chromebooks will be handed out to the eighth through 12th graders who will keep that device with them at all times.
The sixth and seventh grade students will take their tech devices with them from class to class but will leave them at the school at the end of the day.
"Eventually that may change, but for now they will stay at the school,"?the principal says.
Then, the younger students will stay in the classrooms with their devices.
The School Board, administrators, teachers and staff all put a lot of time and research in the past year into getting this program together; including a pilot program where a couple high school classes worked on integrating technology into their class work.
"But, we still have a lot to learn about them,"?Schneider adds. "And throughout the school year, we will continue to see them utilized more and more and will continue to improve."
Leading up to the arrival of the new equipment there was plenty of training that went into the program.
"The staff learned a lot and we will have tech coaches available throughout the year as well as tech integration specialists," he says.
The costs for the program seemed to stack up the more in depth the discussion got.
At a School Board meeting earlier this year the costs included:?up to $130,000 for upgrading wireless infrastructure to accommodate the use of all of these devices; around $115,000 for the iPad Minis, $290,000 for the Chromebooks, $24,000 for the charging stations; and additional miscellaneous costs for protective cases.
At one point in the process the School Board was estimating costs totaling around $400,000. But, the closer the school year got, the firmer the number for the program became.
"We ended up coming in more than $20,000 under the budget for the program,"?superintendent Evan Gough told the School Board at the July meeting.
The students will be using these devices throughout the entire school day, as well as on their homework.
"The kids seem to be excited about this," Schneider says. "It's a natural fit for students these days and they will see it at the next level of education, too."
Since the Chromebooks will be brought from class to class and to the student's home as well, the School Board approved offering insurance to cover the accidental damage or theft of the device.
"It costs the school $25 per student but we are offering it to the students for $15," Schneider said.
During the open house, the principal reviewed the usual rules with students and parents, but he also prepared them for a big change.
"This is very exciting and we really wouldn't be doing this if the goal wasn't to improve the education of our students,"?Schneider says.