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Decision for 1 on 1 Laptops at Ladue High Awaits Another Day

Ladue School Board votes unanimously to continue the dialogue.

For those who are eagerly waiting to see if the Ladue School district launches its laptop proposal, the 21st Century High School Initiative, putting Apple laptop computers into the hands of all 1,200 students, they will have to wait for another day. No decisions will be made anytime before the December, 2012 regular board meeting.

Rather, Rob Highfill, director of technology at Ladue Horton Watkins High School came to the board with a plan of either going forward-not going forward with the initiative.

Both Highfill and Superintendent Dr. Marsha Chappelow were operating on the same page. “We are not seeking the board’s approval of (the 21st Century Initiative), rather, we are simply asking whether we should proceed to the next step of our research.”  Highfill said, “We are concerned with doing a lot of staff research on a project that might never happen.”

Dr. Chappelow urged the board members to vote either yea or nay, based on her personal appeal: If you (school board members) are philosophically opposed to this idea, then vote no tonight.”

That part was easy. The board voted 6-0 to move forward with more research. Nancy Goldstein, the newest board member was absent from the meeting and did not record a vote. The move forward advanced by voice vote 6-0.

The general consensus is that 1,200 students at Ladue High should all be issued laptops going forward. The sticky wicket is how will they be paid for.

Justifiably so, the school board is reluctant to use any of the Prop 1 money approved in April by the voters to pay for this project. The majority feels the computers ought to be paid for by private donations and gifts from companies and corporations.

Likely, parents will be asked to pay for the insurance policies required for these computers.

Questions still linger. Like will students be able to have access to power to run their computers during the school day? Is the school wired up enough to handle the load?

Some think a portion of the costs can be offset by savings in other areas. Using technology, students will have the most current curriculum uploaded onto their computers through a variety of hardware and software programs. The feeling is that’s a lot better than lugging around 4 and 5 year old outdated text books.

As Highfill pointed out, the district has reached the end of a contract with Apple Computers and “we are debt free” paying for the MAC computers we already owned in the library and other places.”

School board members, obviously will need more time to wrestle with this issue.

What school board members are thinking

Jeff Kopolow: “There is great potential for educational value and we have a fiscal responsibility to the tax payers out there to be prudent.”

Sheri Glantz: “Additional Prop 1 money should not be involved with this initiative.”

Stacy Washington: “I need to know the total costs of doing this before we proceed. I imagine we will have to hire additional staff to serve the students with this program.”

Audrey Mack, former board member: “When I first heard about this, I almost fell out of my chair. But this has become a reality--this is how kids learn. We cannot always use economics of the times as an excuse not to do certain things.”

So the discussion goes on. Whether Ladue students will have laptops anytime in the short term future is anyone’s guess. Finding out how to pay for them is the $64,000 question.

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