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Long lines for iPads lead to new procedures at Willmar Senior High

WILLMAR -- Willmar Senior High officials are revamping some of their procedures for distributing iPads to students.

They hope to avoid the long lines that greeted parents and students Monday evening at the first "boot camp" orientation session.

High school parents should be receiving emails soon explaining changes that are being made to try to streamline the process, said Jason Hulstein, director of instructional technology.

For the coming school year, each student in grades 9-12 will be issued an Apple iPad tablet computer. Only juniors and seniors had the tablets in the past school year.

About 250 iPads were distributed Monday. The school still has more than 900 tablets to hand out.

Families must pay an annual $50 technology fee, and each student goes through an orientation process to set up email and Apple accounts. Kids in grades 10-12 are allowed to take their iPads with them after orientation, ninth-graders will get them back on the first day of school.

Other boot camps are scheduled for later in the month.

"We didn't know how many people would come," Hulstein said, and the first night's crowd showed the staff where bottlenecks developed.

"We'll try to have more people in key spots," he said, and the orientation times will be staggered a bit. On Monday, "everybody got in line at the same time."

Some parents commented about the process on the Tribune's Facebook page. When asked about challenges of getting kids ready to go back to school, two parents commented about the iPad situation.

"Challenge? Trying to obtain an iPad at the HS people," wrote Kathy Bollig, "waited in line for hours."

Shawna Steffen said, "Ditto." And she added suggestions for changing the process, including having more people taking fee payments and more people helping students set up their iPads.

Hulstein said it takes some time to walk through the sign-in procedures with each student. "We want to make sure it's set up when they take it," he said.

The school will post some of the forms online so they can be filled out ahead of time.

"We keep learning," he said. "People were actually very nice about it."

The process is more cumbersome this year, because so many students are new to the procedures, Hulstein said. Only this year's seniors had individual iPads last year.

"Next year, we don't expect to have any of these issues," he added. Students will turn in their iPads for updating over the summer and receive the same ones in the fall. Only incoming freshmen will go through the whole orientation process.

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

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