The Santa Barbara Unified School District will be handing out 1,200 iPads for its student pilot program at four schools next month after the Board of Education unanimously supported the purchase Tuesday night.
After months of deliberation, the board unanimously agreed to pay $693,589.56 for the iPad Airs and Apple Care insurance —– which doesn’t cover loss or theft — for every device. The district approved another $50,266 in Gumdrop Hideaway cases. The pilot program’s first year is being funded by Common Core State Standards implementation money from the state, since technology is a critical piece of the new education guidelines.
Teachers, students and families are excited about the rollout, according to principals at the four pilot schools — Adams Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Washington Elementary and La Cuesta Continuation High School.
“I know I will walk into classrooms and have my mind blown on a regular basis,” La Cuesta Principal Frann Wageneck said. “I don’t kid myself that there won’t be ups and downs and bumps and sideways, but I think benefits will outweigh any problems.”
The program requires an Apple device for every student in grades third through sixth at the elementary schools and all 11th-grade students at La Cuesta.
“I think we’re going into this with our eyes wide open,” technology director Todd Ryckman said.
His staff has been improving Internet capacity and other infrastructure issues while teachers have gone through professional development training to prepare for the rollout.
“I’m under no illusions that this may not work,” Ryckman said.
Families can use a district-owned device, lease-to-buy their own through the district or have students bring one from home.
Most parents at Adams, Franklin and La Cuesta want to lease-to-buy iPads while Washington parents — historically with higher incomes — mostly want to use district-owned devices, according to a survey conducted by the principals.
The district’s program cost goes down with more people leasing iPads, but it’s the lower-income families who are interested in buying due to the low monthly payments and small interest rate.
“We’re asking people who can least afford it to subsidize the families who can afford it, and I just think that’s backwards,” board member Ed Heron said.
He said he's also concerned that the devices won’t last more than three years, meaning the lease-to-buy devices would be out of date by the time payments are done, and before a child finishes their K-12 education.
Ryckman has said three years is the ideal replacement time for an iPad device.
The board still has concerns about Internet capacity levels — having all those tablets online at the same time at the same school site — and planning lessons around the devices.
It’s important to be cautious about this and consider it a true pilot program, board member Monique Limon said, adding that other schools shouldn’t assume they’ll get iPad programs next fall.
Member Pedro Paz agreed, but said it was time for the district to integrate technology in a big way.
“We do have to prepare kids for the 21st century," Paz said. "We’re living in it every day.”
Ryckman said that once the district orders the iPads — most likely this week — it will take about three weeks for delivery and another week for configuring them all.