Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 14, 2013

Schools to get tablets

By Paul Minnis Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG – Every child from kindergarten through sixth grade in the Decatur County Community Schools district is about to get a computer tablet to use the rest of the school year.

The 1,100 new generation iPads, a product of the Apple company, will be issued in January, providing a tool that should help a generation of students already familiar with computers excel, Superintendent Johnny Budd said.

He said students in third through sixth grades will get to take their $499, full-size devices home, where they will be responsible for taking care of them, keeping them charged and returning to school with them every day for class.

Students from kindergarten through second grade will have to keep their $379 I-Pad Minis at school, Budd said. District administrators have concluded that those children are too young to be responsible for expensive equipment.

Budd said the youngest students are being issued the less expensive and smaller computer tablets because the smaller size is a better fit for their hands. He said the older students’ full-size models have somewhat more memory.

All units will be closely monitored by the district to control downloads. They will need to be returned to the schools at the end of the school year so technicians can update them and officials can issue them to other students in the fall.

“The kids are so excited about taking (the iPads) home,” said Gine Hoeing, a third-grade teacher at North Decatur Elementary School, who attended a school board meeting Wednesday.

“I can’t wait,” said Mary Ann Smith, who teaches third grade at South Decatur Elementary. “It will be great.”

Budd said the $454,000 investment, handled primarily through textbook fees, will open up for children a diverse world of computer applications on a high-tech platform.

That effort at Decatur County Community Schools actually began last school year. The district bought earlier versions of iPads to test their effectiveness in South Decatur Elementary School’s kindergarten and third grades and in South Decatur Elementary School’s fourth and sixth grades.

Children reacted in a positive way to the devices, which led to the most recent investment, Budd said. The old units will be kept on hand as backups in case students lose their devices or they stop working properly.

The school corporation will finance the new devices through Apple at a 1.2-percent interest rate for three years. That’s the lowest interest rate officials could find. If devices took all three years to pay off, they would cost $459,870.

At the Wednesday school board meeting, board members approved a $500,000 transfer from the General Fund to boost the district’s Rainy Day Fund to $1.1 million. Budd said that money will be needed in the future as new technologies come about and the school district attempts to keep pace with the change.

The district plans during the first two months of 2014 to look into which computer tablets would be most appropriate for students beyond sixth grade, Budd said.

He hopes those will be available in about a year.

Contact: Paul Minnis 812-663-3111 x7401; paul.minnis@greensburgdailynews.com