BC pushes for expanded computer program

Plan would cost $8M over next five years, details yet to be decided

The Bethlehem Central School District has been introducing technology in the classroom for years now, with even young children being exposed to laptops, the Internet and online collaboration like class wiki pages.

But now, a much more expansive program is being pitched, one with a goal of issuing a personal computing device to every high schooler and greatly expanding laptop access to lower grades.

Though the details have yet to be decided upon, the district estimates such a endeavor would cost $8 million to accomplish in the next five years, a sum that would borrowed and need voted approval. Superintendent Michael Tebbano allowed this could be a hard sell, but said he hopes the community will see the value of providing current technology to students [preparing] for a global future.

"I'd hate to be a school district that hides under a rock waiting for this economic crisis to go away," he said. "If we don't go forward with this this year, when will we do it?"

If the plan is approved in May, the district would next school year start expanding its stock of laptops available to 5th graders, so that in a few years there would be enough for all classes to provide every student with a laptop from computer carts that would rotate between classrooms. Laptops would also be introduced to 8th grade classes and work their way into 7th and 6th grade as time goes on.

Also next year, 100 select students in grades 9 and 10 would receive computing devices. Their experiences would be integral in expanding the program little by little until the 2013-14 school year, when every 9th grader would be issued a device.

By the 2015-16 school year, laptops would be in the hands of every middle schooler in the classroom, and all high schoolers would have a computing device they'd be free to take home. It's possible high schoolers would do more "cloud" computing, with their device providing a terminal to BC's servers, where their work resides. That could offer greater control to staff, too.

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