Broken Arrow School District Gives Laptops To Ninth Graders

Wednesday, August 12th 2015, 2:30 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Students at the Broken Arrow Freshman Academy start school next week with a laptop that could save more money than it costs.

The new, low-priced computers replace textbooks and other more expensive computers.

The district has 1,300 ninth graders this year and every one of them gets a computer they'll keep for the year.

Buying all those computers costs a lot, but it could save even more.

Students at the Freshman Academy faced the same paperwork as years before, but one feature - besides the nervous ninth graders - is a new Chromebook laptop for every freshman.

It's a new initiative by the district to get technology into the hands of students and actually make it useful, instead of just a toy.

"In a matter of a couple of seconds it's booted up,” Chief Information Officer Brian Daley explained.

The particular laptops have several advantages the district wanted - it works with Google's classroom tools, it doesn't weigh much and it doesn't cost much - $205 for each one.

Daley said, "Opposed to a Macbook, or a PC laptop at $700 or $800 a device, that's [Chromebooks] an affordable device."

The district is replacing ninth grade textbooks with the laptops and spent two years preparing for the change.

"Here at this site, we're not having to buy any textbooks," Education Specialist, Brandon Chitty said.

That saves the district about $80 per textbook because the online versions - drafted by Broken Arrow teachers - are almost free.

Students are free to mark up their copy, and teachers can change it anytime they want.

Chitty said, “So it's a living document that's always revised and up to date.”

The district has controls in place to limit what kids can access, and parents have to pay for the Chromebooks if they're lost.

Besides the savings on textbooks, parents like Abby Gorman, figure they now won't have to share the computer at home.

“For school it will keep everything together, they don't have to go to other computers and worry about the rest of us being on the computer, so I think it will be good,” she said.

They'll use them for state testing, and they do have a way of blocking the textbooks during the test.

After this year, the laptops go with the students and next year's class will get new ones.

Eventually, they'll spread to upper and lower grades.