One of the aims in the initiative is to improve student success by increasing equity of access to learning tools in the “form of modern, portable devices to all students,” said SD8 board chair Lenora Trenaman. “(The goal is) to provide access to district-purchased and supported software applications; to support learning outside the traditional classroom; (and) to ensure all students have equal access to technology-rich learning opportunities,” she said.
For the first time in its history, the school system has begun providing computers to some students to supplement their studies. The board of trustees of School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) approved the lease of laptop computers for all students in grades 7 and 10 across the district last spring. 850 computers were distributed to kids across the district during the Student Laptops for Success campaign in September and October.
The cost of the initiative is far less than the $750,000 that was first touted by some when it was announced in February, with $230,000 being spent on the lease cost for the machines, which is funded out of the operating funding provided by the Ministry of Education.
The devices have a service life of three years, Trenaman explained, so students in Grade 7 and Grade 10 will continue to use the laptop they are given for three years. At the end of the three years the students return the laptops and the district returns them to its laptop provider at the end of the lease term. “The laptops are checked out in the same manner as district library books, multi-media and equipment,” said Trenaman. The two grades — Grade 7 and Grade 10 — were selected as the entry point for laptops because it is a transitional education point: students begin middle school in Grade 7 and high school in Grade 10.
Only one trustee voted against the initiative — Al Gribbin of Creston — and made a motion (that was defeated) to delay the approval at the time in order to examine the implications of the initiative and investigate other options. Although only two grades will receive laptops this year the idea is that eventually all students within the final six years of secondary school will receive one.
The initiative has been vetted through the proper budget and public channels, Trenaman pointed out, and was considered by the board during its regular budget process for 2021-2022. “Had the board decided during the budget process that the laptop initiative was not to continue, any laptops ordered would have gone into circulation to schools for shared use under the district’s normal device equipment procurement and provision programs,” she said.
“As such, the board authorized staff to proceed with the laptop procurement prior to the budget process so that the laptops could be procured in time for the roll-out at the beginning of this year, and there was no risk of any additional cost commitment outside the budget process. There will be an ongoing cost for maintenance and technicians to keep the machinery working and updated.
“(T)here is an ongoing cost for maintenance and technicians for all district technology, and this initiative was not expected to require any additional costs beyond what had already been budgeted,” Trenaman said.