School board gets update on 1-to-1 device initiative

During last Monday’s Mecklenburg County School Board meeting, Assistant Director of Technology Brook Hatcher offered the board an update on the school system’s “1-to-1” device initiative, which aims to provide each student with an electronic device to supplement learning.
Hatcher informed the board that currently, the school system is in the second year of the four-year initiative. She said last year, the 2015-2016 school year marked the first year of the plan, in which Mecklenburg County Public Schools (MCPS) was able to provide Chromebooks to all students in grades 2 and 6, as well as Dell 3340 laptop computers to all grade 9 students, teachers and principals.
She said now, in the second year of the plan, MCPS has provided grades 3, 5 and 7 with Chromebooks, as well as grade 10 with Dell 3350 laptops.
“Also this year, we have used our VPSA (Virginia Public School Authority) funds to purchase fourth grade Chromebooks,” Hatcher said, noting the devices, numbering 340, should be arriving in the next few weeks and distributed to students before or just after the holiday break.
Also purchased with the same funds, according to Hatcher, were new servers for each school as well as the central office, in addition to access points to support infrastructure and Internet access.
Hatcher said in total, including 1,700 Chromebooks and 1,245 laptop computers, MCPS has been able to provide students and staff with 2,945 new devices in the first two years of the plan.
Hatcher also reviewed the lease that MCPS holds with Dell, which includes several support services that MCPS is able to take advantage of. Services such as next business day hardware support, accidental damage and white glove services are included in the lease.
In regard to the next business day hardware support, Hatcher said that if an issue with a device is discovered and a “part” needed, the item would arrive the very next day after the issue is reported so a technician could begin repairs.
“This way the device does not stay out of service for a long period of time,” she said. “ It goes right back into the classroom so the students can use it.”
While the accidental damage policy is fairly self-explanatory, Hatcher noted that white glove services means that any devices that MCPS orders are “ready to be deployed to students” the moment they are delivered to MCPS.
Continuing, Hatcher moved on to discuss the upcoming two years of the four-year initiative.
She said that in years three and four of the plan, MCPS hopes to be able to provide all kindergarteners with iPads, grades 1 and 8 with Chromebooks and grades 11 and 12 with Dell laptops. She also said that in year four of the plan, MCPS hopes to be able to refresh Chromebooks for grades 2 and 6.
“Chromebooks will renew every three years, and the Dell laptops will renew every four years,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher also noted that the introduction of devices into the classroom has been a great decision.
“Teachers can individually track students’ performance, students are engaged and eager to use the devices,” she said. “We are well on our way to a great start with getting a device in the hands of all of our students.”