All ETHS students to receive Google Chromebooks in 2016-17 school year

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Daily file photo by Adnaan Zaffer

Evanston Township High School students will all receive Google Chromebooks by the end of the next school year. School officials decided to expedite dispersal of the Chromebooks by a year — the project initially wasn’t slated to be finished until the 2017-2018 school year.

Darby Hopper, Reporter

Every student enrolled at Evanston Township High School will have a Google Chromebook in the 2016-2017 school year — a full year earlier than originally projected when the plan was first implemented two years ago.

Eric Witherspoon, superintendent of School District 202 Evanston Township High School, announced Jan. 28 at the State of the Schools address that every ETHS student will receive a device by August. Payment for the Chromebook varies depending on the student’s financial situation, said David Chan, director of instructional technology at ETHS. The implementation was originally supposed to be completed in the 2017-2018 school year.

“Next year we make that big leap,” Witherspoon said. “Every student in every grade level in ETHS will have … their own Chromebook.”

Chan said in talking with peer institutions, he learned about some of the roadblocks that come with the multi-year rollout of technology programs, which contributed to ETHS’s decision to speed up implementation of the project.

The original plan, which ETHS has operated under for the past two years, gave Chromebooks to the entering freshman class, while the returning students operated without the devices. The problem, Chan said, appears in the third year of the program, when juniors with Chromebooks would be in classes with seniors who would not have the devices.

“As freshmen, it’s not a problem,” Chan said. “Same thing with sophomores: A lot of them are in classes with each other. When you get to upperclassmen, with juniors and seniors, you get more of a mixed environment.”

Chan said ETHS was prepared to deal with the third year under the original plan, but when an alternative appeared, the administration took advantage of it. William Stafford, chief financial officer of ETHS, said the primary reason why the sped-up program became financially feasible was because the school had enough devices in its possession to be able to offer them to the senior class of 2017.

“Between the ones that we’ve got in the classrooms and the spares that we have, we’ve actually come up with about 800 more, so those really aren’t costing us anything,” Stafford said.  

Chan said ETHS had been exploring the option of moving up the implementation plan since fall by looking at schedules, calculating the number of available devices and seeing if the extra devices could be insured. The new plan was presented to the board in early February.

The funding for the devices comes from the school’s normal budget, not an outside grant. Stafford said ETHS pays for the Chromebooks up front at roughly $300 apiece, and students pay $50 a year over four years and then will take the device with them when they graduate.

The 2017 seniors will pay $70 for the year, the $50 fee and $20 for insurance. They will still graduate as owners of the refurbished devices.

Stafford said the school budget eats about $100 on each device — money Chan said was reallocated from other places in the budget such as money for desktop computers.

Chan said students who have demonstrated financial need can reduce their fees, and students receiving free lunch do not pay at all. These students will still get to keep their Chromebooks when they graduate.

“They will not get a special device or a labeled device; they will not have to return the device at the end of the year,” Chan said. “There’s equity across the board.”

Although ETHS faces an uncertain financial situation under the state’s budget crisis, Stafford said the Chromebook program is here to stay.  

“To be very frank, that program will continue to go on,” Stafford said. “That is not a large enough expenditure item in the grand scheme of things. We’ll keep that going.”

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Twitter: @darby_hopper

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