Archive for Thursday, June 7, 2001

Board to consider laptop computer program

June 7, 2001

The De Soto school board will hear a sales pitch from Netschools next month before voting on whether it will fund a pilot program that will make laptop computers available to district students 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Atlanta-based company is a pioneer in making wireless Internet computer technology available to schools.

It markets laptop computers that connect with overhead access points placed in classrooms and other areas throughout the school via an infrared signal.

The access points are wired to a server, making the e-mail and Internet available to all students.

Last month, Superintendent Marilyn Layman presented the district with cost estimates for starting a pilot Netschools program in the district. One would introduce 876 laptops at the district's two middle schools for $1.69 million. The other proposal would make 922 laptops available to students attending the district's west campus of Starside Elementary, Lexington Trails Middle School and De Soto High School for an estimated $2.2 million.

The pilot program would be funded mostly through grants, but Layman said revenue for the district's technology fund and other special funds would also be used.

Monday's discussion was instigated by board member Sandy Thierer's suggestion that the board make a decision on Netschools this month. Thierer contended that school board members are familiar enough with the Netschools concept to make an informed decision.

The board first considered and rejected a Netschools pilot program in the fall of 1999.

The district is under pressure to make a decision if it is to meet grant application deadlines.

The Lexington Trails renovation is also a consideration. District technology director Doug Weis said it will be much cheaper to install the wiring the Netschools system needs while the current renovation takes place.

Board member Bill Waye of Shawnee continued to be the biggest skeptic of the Netschools program on the board. If the pilot program proves Netschools improves education, the district will be obligated to see that all district schools share in the technology, he said. He worried that commitment would come with a big expense.

Waye said Monday he wants to hear the Netschools' best sales pitch before making his decision.

It was agreed to attempt to arrange a presentation from Netschools at the board's July 2 meeting. The board would vote on the pilot program after the presentation.

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