In July and August, students and parents will attend mandatory training sessions to learn how to use the iPad that will be provided to every student.
Jon Paul Campbell, superintendent, discussed Jacksonville’s “1:1 iPad Initiative” at the annual “State of the Schools” address and town hall meeting.
Campbell said the school system’s digital conversion is designed to “improve student engagement and student achievement.”
“The devices level the playing field for all students. They give them the opportunity to learn at their own pace,” Campbell said.
Campbell used examples of other schools using the technology, stating that a school system in Mooresville, N.C. had success using iPads in the classroom and saw disciplinary referrals drop by 60 percent.
Campbell said all fourth- through 12th-grade students would be given either an iPad or iPad mini. While each Kindergarten through third-grade classroom will be provided with eight iPad minis to integrate into lesson plans. There will also be 120 MacBook laptops available for classroom use.
The city of Jacksonville contributed $226,000 toward the digital conversion, Campbell said.
The user cost is still being discussed, the superintendent said, but it’s likely a parent will pay $50 per student for an entire school year, with a maximum payment of $100 per family.
Heidi Dempsey, mother of two high school students, said she was concerned her children would forget to charge their iPads.
“It’s hard enough to remind them that they have to have their cell phones charged so we can call them,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey said she’s also curious to see what school policies are written for lost or stolen iPads.
“I think they have potential if they’re used correctly, but I don’t think they are necessarily going to replace pencils and paper,” Dempsey said.
Mike Poe, school board president, said Jacksonville teachers have continuously trained with the iPads since they started working with them a year ago.
“I think it’s going to be a great thing for teaching and learning,” Poe said.
Some parents were concerned the iPads were intended to replace teachers, Poe said, but they are to be used as a teaching tool.
“Certainly they’re not replacing teachers. These aren’t going to be a babysitter for the younger grades. These are another tool to learn,” Poe said.
The school system is also creating a list of businesses that offer free wireless internet services, and the City Council is working to partner with wireless providers to get reduced rates for the families of students who aren’t connected.
The meeting also covered the future of Kitty Stone Elementary School and the possibility of building a middle school. Campbell said nothing has been decided, but the school board is exploring several different options.
The board, Campbell said, agrees that the main priority is to renovate or replace Kitty Stone. If enough funds are available, it’s likely a middle school will also be built.
The school board will have an estimated $9.5 million available for school construction. Renovating Kitty Stone would cost $6.9 million. Building a new middle school is estimated at $7.4 million. A new elementary school would cost $10.7 million. A combined middle school and elementary school building would cost around $16.3 million. Building a middle school onto the existing high school would cost $2.8 million.
“The board believes a middle school is the best solution for our city and that we should build a middle school if at all possible,” Campbell said.
Another meeting to discuss the digital conversion will be held on May 14 at 6:30 at JHS.