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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 10:00 pm | Fair 49º


Four Santa Barbara Schools May Soon Get iPads

The Santa Barbara Unified School District may hand out iPads to students at four schools by December or January, Superintendent Dave Cash said Tuesday night.

The one-to-one pilot program is planned for Adams Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Washington Elementary and La Cuesta Continuation High schools this year.

District leaders hope the program will help students and teachers integrate technology into curricula, which is a key component of the new Common Core State Standards. Students in grades 3-6 will get iPads and students in grade 11 at La Cuesta. 

Families at Adams, Franklin and La Cuesta overwhelmingly stated they would want to participate in a lease-to-buy program, while most families at Washington – which has a higher-income population – would use a district-owned device.

These results are common at other districts, since these purchase programs are sometimes the only opportunity a low-income family has to buy an iPad while other families already have one at home, technology director Todd Ryckman said.

Board of Education members have discussed the program several times but have yet to approve the actual iPad purchases or any agreements or policies related to the pilot program,. The issue will come back at either the December meeting or early next year, Cash said.

He hopes earlier than later, so students have the winter break to get comfortable using the tablets. One or two schools may be ready in December, if not all four, he said.

In response to board member concerns and questions, Cash said the district isn’t perfectly situated to start this program, but can’t wait for that. It’s impossible to anticipate every problem, and the district is banking on its leadership – and the four principals – to solve issues as they come up, he said.

Any policies or agreements may not be able to capture every “what-if,” he said.

Still, board president Monique Limon and other board members asked the district to anticipate as many challenges as it can now, before the implementation begins.

The district needs to be open about discussing the challenges and things that could go wrong, while acknowledging that it can’t anticipate everything, board member Pedro Paz said.

Ryckman said the district plans to use the Xerox Invest For Learning Rental Management Program to collect payments and provide customer service for the families who choose to buy iPads through the district.

Parents won’t have a legal binding contract, though, and the district still isn’t sure what to do if a family just stops making payments, he said.

Board member Ed Heron said he has “queasy feelings” about the likelihood that low-income families will be purchasing iPads while wealthier families will use the district devices for free.

To that point, Limon and board member Kate Parker said they understand the opportunity to purchase a device without interest, like the district is offering. Owning an iPad also means it will become a tool for the whole family, Parker said.

Schools plan to train parents during the distribution time, and Cash will be hosting digital citizenship seminars for parents in December, January and February, he said.

Santa Barbara Unified plans to buy 1,200 iPad Air devices, with 16 gigabytes of memory and wireless capabilities, for $624,384. That includes cases and insurance, but not keyboards, Ryckman said.

Limon was also concerned about the district’s wireless capacity and being able to handle hundreds of new devices on the system that already has issues.

The pilot program update at Tuesday’s meeting came right after Ryckman briefed the board on the technology system’s progress and admitted there are still many challenges.

Several schools have struggled with consistent wireless coverage, and part of the issue comes from shoddy wire installation years ago, including 70 percent of Dos Pueblos High School’s cables, Ryckman said.

His staff is checking all cables to make sure they work, which could solve a lot of the problems.

The district still has no formal testing for software or policies for acceptable use of devices on campus, which were both recommended in the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team report on technology.

The recommendation to make sure every closet with networking — every closet with a switch — has ventilation and air conditioning is an impossible task, but the district will deal with issues as they come up, Ryckman said.

Some of the district’s closets share wireless infrastructure with water heaters or are rat-infested, and air conditioning them would have a “negligible” impact on the network overall, he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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