Mt. Vernon to get computers for all

FORTVILLE — All Mt. Vernon students will receive computers in the upcoming school year, now that the school board has approved a $2.5 million loan for the “one-to-one” technology initiative.

Mt. Vernon becomes the last school corporation in the county to launch a one-to-one program for students but only the second to issue laptops to students at all age levels. Southern Hancock also has a laptop program for Grades K-12, while Greenfield-Central will issue laptops to high school students only this upcoming school year. Eastern Hancock issues laptops for students in Grades 5-12.

The unanimous vote Monday to move forward comes as the Mt. Vernon School Board prepares to welcome its new superintendent, who was given a top priority of launching such a program. While school officials originally predicted a 2016-2017 school year launch, incoming Superintendent Shane Robbins is putting the program on the fast track.

“We know it’s an aggressive schedule to get the teachers ready, the curriculum ready,” board president Tony May said after the meeting. “But if Dr. Robbins is confident, I’m confident.”

The $2.5 million loan through Greenfield Banking Co. will come with a 1.4 percent interest rate, which was the lowest of three banks that submitted proposals, said Brian Tomamichel, corporation business manager.

The loan will be paid off through the school’s capital projects fund, which comes from property taxes and textbook rental fees.

All students will see a flat $135 textbook rental fee for laptops, while middle school and high school students could pay additional money based on the courses they take. Previous fees ranged from $117 to $140 for elementary school students to several hundred dollars for secondary students, Tomamichel added.

The corporation will purchase 1,800 iPads for elementary students and 2,300 Chromebooks for middle school and high school students. Greg Rollo, technology director, said that is enough to issue a computer for current enrollment plus 10 percent, as well as one for each teacher.

Additional infrastructure also will be purchased, including 85 iPad charging carts (one for each elementary school classroom); five Chromebook charging carts; and wireless access points for each classroom.

Additional technology likely will be added in the near future, Rollo said.

“We’re going to continue to purchase devices as our enrollment increases,” Rollo said. “We’re going to continue to add access points.”

Families will be responsible for the safekeeping of their devices, the board said. Parents can opt into an insurance program for computers, which would cost $19 to $38 a year. If they waive insurance, Tomamichel said, they would be responsible for replacing the computer if it breaks or is lost.

With the one-to-one computer program comes the possibility of professional development training for teachers. Robbins has mentioned delayed start times, where students come to school 45 minutes late one day a week to give teachers time to learn about implementing technology in the classroom.

Robbins has also mentioned implementing online learning days, when students work from home on snow days. Southern Hancock was the first corporation in the county to try an online learning day in January.

With approval from the Indiana Department of Education, school districts that issue computers to all students can require work from home during inclement weather and remain on track to complete the mandated 180 days of the school year without having to tack on days at the end of the year.

The school board Monday also hired a new curriculum coordinator. One of Jeff Bond’s primary responsibilities will be to ensure teachers receive training on technology.

May said Monday’s vote ensures the district will have devices to implement one-to-one computing, but if for some reason teachers are not ready to start using the devices at the beginning of the school year, the program can be phased in over time.

Board member Mike McCarty said after the meeting that he’s excited to see the program launch. He said a lot of the credit goes back to the community for approving the corporation’s referendum in 2014. While referendum dollars are not being spent on the one-to-one program, the fact that the corporation is now fiscally sound allowed the corporation to move forward, he said.

“Now we have the ability to be more financially stable,” McCarty said.

At a glance

More information about Mt. Vernon’s one-to-one computer program can be found: