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iPad rollout continues in district schools

The Farmington School District is taking the next step in a process that will eventually put an iPad in the hands of every district student.

Last week school board members approved a three-year, $533,751 lease agreement that will provide 1,420 of the Apple tablet computers to students at Farmington High School. When the distribution is completed later this year, every student at FHS will have one of the devices.

The distribution is the third step in a process that Forbes magazine has identified as the 23rd-largest publicly known iPad rollout and the second largest rollout in the state. The Rochester School District is passing out 15,000 iPads over three years, according to Forbes. Most of the large rollouts identified in the Forbes list, which was last updated Oct. 16, are being done by school districts.

Farmington handed out about 600 iPads to school staff last spring to help them prepare for the transition. It leased another 1,730 iPads in July for a group of early-adopting teachers. That group was meant to help work out some of the kinks of the program before the distribution expanded, then help ease the transition for new users once it did.

The new lease, which also includes protective cases and software vouchers, is $50,000 less than the district expected, finance director Carl Colmark said. He attributed the reduction to finding less expensive cases and getting fewer software vouchers.

District staff will spend November preparing the iPads for students and distribute them in December.

School board members expressed some concerns about the program as it expands, particularly about keeping the devices in one piece. The district offers an optional $39 insurance plan for the devices, but board member Julie Singewald asked Monday what would happen if an uninsured device is broken.

"If we're not mandating insurance, we could be sinking ourselves in this investment," Singewald said.

The district is in the process of putting together a loan agreement that would cover iPad care and acceptable use, and there will be meetings with FHS parents before the iPads are distributed. But Charles Duarte, the district's head of instructional technology, said there will be an element of trust involved.

"We have to have the faith in them to take care of the devices," Duarte said. "The whole process hinges on the value of the device as part of the learning process."

Duarte said there has been discussion about having the district's youngest students leave their iPads at school.

The district plans to continue its iPad rollout throughout the school year, with every student in the district having one by the end of the school year.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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