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Willmar, Minn., School Board sets iPad policy for fall

WILLMAR -- Willmar juniors and seniors will each pay a $50 annual rental fee when they are issued Apple iPads in September.

The Willmar School Board adopted a policy and a student/parent handbook for iPad use at school. A public hearing was held on the policy, but there were no comments.

The rental fee will be required of all students, and the district will have a payment plan available for families that need them, said Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard.

"So if they don't pay the fee, it stays in school," said Chairman Nathan Streed.

In addition to the rental fee, the policy says that inappropriate use of the iPad can result in suspension of iPad privileges.

Students and their families will be charged for repairing damage to an iPad. If the repair cost exceeds the cost of a new device, the student will pay the full replacement value.

Board member Linda Mathiasen said the fundraising steering committee had asked to have a fee charged, so students will feel more "ownership" in the process.

A community fundraising effort and matching funds from the district will be used to provide individual iPad tablet computers for all juniors and seniors, a total of about 600 students.

It will be the third year in an ongoing pilot project to integrate iPad technology into classrooms. School officials and teachers have said the iPad can provide all students with access to the same technology, regardless of income.

The handbook includes a list of goals for the iPad program, including enhancing and accelerating learning.

Other goals are to promote collaboration between students and staff, to increase student engagement and to strengthen technology skills for future student success.

Another goal is to use the iPads as much as possible to replace traditional textbooks and classroom equipment like graphing calculators.

Many schools have chosen the iPad because it has a longer battery life than many tablet computers and Apple has many applications that are geared to education.

In addition to paying the $50 fee, students and parents will be required to attend an iPad "boot camp" and complete a policy quiz and forms.

The policy says that access to the district's electronic network is a privilege that may be suspended or revoked for misconduct. Use of the iPads must comply with other district policies, including the discipline policy and the internet use policy.

Specific actions that are prohibited include threatening behavior, taking photos in locker rooms or restrooms and taking photos or recordings of any teacher or student without permission. Gaming sites and many social media sites will be off limits.

School staff may seize and examine iPads at any time, as they will always remain the property of the school district.

In other business, the board adopted the fiscal 2013 budget, which will go into effect on July 1. The general fund budget reflects a 1.3 percent increase in revenues and a 3 percent increase in expenditures, with total expenses expected to be $42.3 million.

The district plans to use some of its reserve funds to address instructional needs highlighted in recent state test results. The board also discussed some of the staff changes proposed by Kjergaard. The state ranked the district's two elementary schools among the lowest in the state in attacking achievement gaps between minority and white students and between low-income and more affluent students.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340