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Commissioners approve iPad, laptop lease for students

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s lease agreement with Apple, enabling the school system to move forward with its one-to-one technology plan.
“It’s exciting,” Moody said. “We really appreciate the vote of support.”
The district is repurposing $12 million over the next three years to lease 16,555 devices – 7,315 MacBook Air laptops and 9,240 iPads so teachers and students in third through 12th grades can have device they can use at school and home throughout the school year.
“We’re using the same amount on technology,” just in a different way,” Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody explained to commissioners.
Moody faced questions from Pierce asking whether or not digital devices would be effective for all students.
“As a husband of an elementary teacher for 28 years, I know that there are going to be children you just can’t teach on this device. Some children just don’t get it, so to speak,” Pierce said.
“It’s not an answer to education,” Moody said, as she stressed that the tablets and laptops were only meant to be educational tools.
Commissioners asked if the district had considered any brands other than Apple.
“We’re heavily involved in Apple already,” Moody said.
With “so much existing equipment,” it would have been drastically more expensive to start from scratch, she explained.
The laptops will come with Apple’s AppleCare warranty, and school system will self-insure the iPads.
Each student will be charged a user fee – $25 for iPads and $50 for laptops. Those funds will be used to take care of any damaged or stolen iPads.
Moody also assured the commissioners that use of the devices would be strictly monitored, when they expressed concern over the types of content and mobile applications that could be accessed with the devices.
They will come with a rulebook and user guide explaining appropriate uses.
In addition, inappropriate material will be blocked by using a proxy setting, according to Candace Salmon-Hosey, Rowan-Salisbury executive director of technology.
“It will be a controlled amount of privilege,” she said.
Salmon-Hosey also explained the district plans to keep up as the devices take up more and more bandwidth by adding more access points in all the schools.
Commissioner Mike Caskey said he thinks a one-to-one ratio of devices to kids is “the way we’re heading anyway.”
“Technology is a great thing for our society. I think I’ll vote to give you a chance,” said Jim Sides, chairman of the Board of Commissioners.
Sides called the plan “innovative,” but also said, “I think you’re going to have some problems.”
Moody also presented the district’s proposed budget for next school year.
The primary changes in the budget from last year are a mandatory 2 percent salary hike, retirement and insurance cost increases, and requests for additional staffing from the school board.
The district plans to spend $167.5 million on operations during the 2014-15 school year, but only expects to bring in $164.3 million in revenue from federal, state, county and grant funding.
The school board asked commissioners for $3.2 million to make up the difference.
County commissioners will vote on the budget at a later time.

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