North Boone Tech Pilot Program Leaves Families Frustrated

POPLAR GROVE- Seventh grader Zachary Berndt pulls up a homework assignment on a Droid tablet. But mom Jennifer Smith says parents weren't given many options when it comes to the expensive device required for class work at North Boone Middle School.

"The issues that I have with it are the parents were not offered any choice to purchase tablets, to purchase insurance, to purchase a warranty," explained Smith.

Right now there's no financial limit set on what parents have to dish out if the school-owned device is damaged.

Around 135 North Boone Middle School students are taking part in the pilot program. Each paid a $75 technology fee.

North Boone Community School District Superintendent Steve Baule says having kids opt out or buy their own device would mean duplicating instruction.

"Especially in the pilot phase when we're talking about making sure that it's easy for teachers and students both to use the technology for the first time. You couldn't have a situation where you had 135 different versions," said Baule.

Baule argues student absences are down by 45%. Homework completion is up. And student growth in math and language arts is beyond expectations.

"They’re motivated. They’re excited about it,” he said.

Regardless, parents like Smith think families should at least be given options.

"I don't see any reason on earth for a bunch of 12 year olds to be running around all day with an expensive piece of equipment that the parents are held financially liable for," said Smith.

Because of the success of this year's pilot program, the district is now looking to possibly expand the tablet program to grades five through eight.

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