Vinton–The Roanoke County School Board recently approved a budget which includes funding in the amount of $1.1 million to purchase 2,200 laptops for seventh and eighth graders throughout the county school system for the upcoming school year.
This is an expansion of the current laptop program which started in 2002 when Hidden Valley High School opened and its ninth graders received laptops. The following year the program expanded to all ninth graders enrolled in Roanoke County high schools and has continued to extend to other grade levels in the years since.
The technology department conducted a successful pilot program in the eighth grade this past year.
In 2016-2017 all middle school students in Roanoke County schools in grades seven and eight will receive the laptops—that’s approximately 535 computers for WBMS students.
School Board Vice Chairman Tim Greenway, who represents Vinton on the board, has been very supportive of expanding the laptop computer program to include 7th through 12th grades. He says he believes that putting computers in the hands of all students helps “even the playing field” for those who do not have access to technology at home.
“I believe we should get laptops earlier and earlier into the hands of disadvantaged students—the earlier the better,” said Greenway.
In fact all school board members have been enthusiastic in their support of the program. Greenway is hopeful that when funds are available laptops can be purchased for sixth graders as well.
Jeff Terry, chief information officer for Roanoke County Schools, says that the laptops used in the eighth grade pilot program are six years old and have exceeded their useful life—but provided an opportunity to pilot the program at no cost.
The student laptops which were recently ordered are Dell Latitude 3350’s with a full four-year complete care warranty. Terry says “this laptop will support all of the instructional needs required by our laptop program.”
Terry said that if the computers could be ordered by May 20, the staff would have sufficient time to prepare for distribution at the beginning of the school year.
“With this purchase, all 7th and 8th grade students will have the tools necessary to achieve 21st Century learning skills,” said Terry. “As part of our 1:1 program, students will have access to these devices in school and at home.”
The purchase price of each laptop is $505, available at that price through a state contract. The funding will come from personnel savings in the current year.
According to Terry, the parents pay $50 to insure the laptop at the high school and middle school level. The free/reduced lunch price is $25 for each level.
For the 2016-2017 school year there will be around 1,100 student laptops at William Byrd High School.
Terry says that students in the 9th grade keep their laptops through the 12th grade.
“The middle school program laptops will be kept in the middle schools,” explained Terry. “Seventh grade students will receive the same laptop in the eighth grade. Eighth grade student laptops will be rotated down to rising seventh grade students the following year.”
Terry went on to say that starting in 2016-2017 school year, “tests given in Blackboard will be delivered with a lock-down browser (much like SOL testing). While in the lock-down browser, students will only be able to access the test. Students will no longer be able to search for answers by using a different browser. Also, our student laptops will have web filtering at school and at home. This will be the first year that we offer filtering at home. This will allow for web reports at any time.”
“We are excited for opportunities that our students will have,” noted Terry.