Tuscarora School Board OKs laptop lease for ninth-graders

June 13, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — The Tuscarora School Board has approved a three-year lease with Apple for Macintosh laptops to be used by ninth-graders in the classroom and at home.

The board was split on the matter in April and reached a 5-4 decision Monday after 90 minutes of discussion. Board documents state the lease will not exceed $74,000 a year.

Board member Larry Funk said he had concerns about the initiative until he saw a “top-notch” math program in use. He said students can work at their own level on the computers.

Feedback and scoring on homework is immediate when calculated by a computer, Funk said.

Board member Thomas Black said he’s concerned students will be spending more time at home in front of computers, rather than participating in physical activities. He also criticized the laptops for having cameras that might be used in class.

“These students are easily distracted,” Black said.

Board member Daryl Hunsberger said junior and senior high schools in Hancock are undertaking a pilot program where students receive laptop computers. An assistant principal at Williamsport High School in Washington County, Hunsberger said he suspects textbooks will be obsolete in a few years.

“It works wonderfully in Washington County with the proper professional development for teachers and staff,” he said.

Former board member Ken Nolen asked the board to not lease the laptops “until our county economy turns around.”

“There’s teachers leaving,” he said. “There’s subjects being dropped.”

Tuscarora Superintendent Rebecca Erb said the laptops continue a vision developed when James Buchanan High School renovations were being planned.

“It was always a ‘school of the future’ with a strong technology base,” Erb said, saying teachers will become content creators and coaches.

“I think the advantage in our district is we’re ready to go to that next step,” she said.

“It goes beyond replacing a textbook. It’s improving a textbook,” said Rodney Benedick, high school principal.

Board member Daniel Reeder said his concern is parental control.

“We’re putting an incredible burden on the parents of this district,” Reeder said.

“We have people in the district that don’t have televisions in their homes. ... I don’t want to see the district intruding in the home,” he said.

Parents will receive permission slips to be able to use the computers outside school, Board President Clifford Smith said.

How they voted:

Lease Macintosh laptops for students

  • Larry Funk — yes
  • Daryl Hunsberger — yes
  • Harold Hunsberger — yes
  • Daniel Reeder — yes
  • Clifford Smith — yes
  • Thomas Black — no
  • Erich Hawbaker — no
  • Guy Hollenshead — no
  • Donald Piper — no

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