Forest City students to get free use of laptops

BY REBEKAH BROWN

Times-Shamrock Writer

Technology has been embraced by the Forest City Regional School District, which will outfit every high school student and teacher with a laptop this fall.

The new initiative will level the playing field for students and increase their ability to compete after graduation, according to Superintendent John Kopicki.

“The school board has been pretty proactive with staying current with technology,” he said. “This just seemed like a natural progression to help our students have all the tools they need to compete in their world.”

The world that current high school students are growing up in is different from the world he learned in, he acknowledged.

“I was educated at a different time,” he said. “Technology has really changed the way we communicate in the world today.”

The investment, which will cost $40,000 each year, took much consideration, school board President Mary Emmett explained.

“It was pretty well thought out,” she said, adding that administrators had visited several other districts to see how laptops affected instruction. “It’s been months and months and months of researching.”

Students will be able to take laptops home but will be required to turn them in before the end of the school year. The laptops will also be distributed to one grade level at a time so administrators can work out any issues that arise.

“I’m sure there will be bugs that have to be worked out,” Emmett said of the new initiative. “It’s something we’re really excited about. This really gives every student the opportunity to do the assignments that they normally might not have been able to do.”

Kopicki agreed that the laptops would have a positive impact on students in and out of school.

“It won’t replace the teacher, but it’s going to enhance the instruction,” he said. “It’s going to make the educational environment that much stronger.”

Eventually, Kopicki would like the laptops to help create a more paperless environment with the possibility of putting textbooks online.

The 315 Lenovo laptops will be leased for four years, with an option to purchase afterward, he explained.

The annual $40,000 cost will be reflected in the district’s technology budget. The 2012-13 budget did reflect an increase in taxes, but Kopicki said the increase was minimal.

“Any increase is harsh, but it was not an astronomical increase,” he said. “We were very careful to make sure we balanced our budget.”

The 1.05-mill increase will result in an increase of about $30 for the average household, according to business manager Kathleen Seifried. A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The district also eliminated two teaching positions through attrition, but Kopicki said more efficient use of personnel will counter that loss.