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School board renews lease for iPads in classrooms

The Farmington School Board officially confirmed its commitment to iPads in the classroom Tuesday night, approving a new lease with Apple for another four years of the tablet computers.

With interest, the new deal will cost the district $3,574,507 for 7,850 iPad Air 2s and iPad Mini 2s as well as protective cases, technical support and the back-end software the district can use to exert some control over what students have on their devices.

The district’s initial three-year iPad lease runs out this year, and instructional technology director Andrew Baldwin said when he presented lease options in April that the tablets have become integral parts of teaching in many district classrooms.

Farmington schools have had representatives from districts as far away as Ohio visit to see how they are working technology into the classroom, and Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius was scheduled to visit Farmington High School Thursday morning to see what students are doing there.

In a 2014 survey, 49 percent of district residents said they support iPads in the classroom, and another 23 percent said they strongly support the tablets. A separate survey found that 66 percent of parents either agree or strongly agree that using technology in the classroom can enhance learning.

The district is currently making plans to collect iPads from students before the end of the school year, but superintendent Jay Haugen has talked since the tablets were introduced about someday leaving them with students year round so they can become learning tools during the summer. The school board has not formally discussed that option.

The larger iPad Airs will go to students in third grade and older. Those students will need the bigger screen in order to use the tablets for standardized testing as more and more of that moves online. The smaller iPad Minis will go to students in kindergarten, first and second grades.

While the new lease is for four years, the district will have the opportunity to upgrade again after three years.

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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