Starting in the fall, every student at Brookfield Local School District in grades three to 12 will be assigned their own Chromebook computer for use on schoolwork.
High school students will be able to take the laptop computers home, and graduating seniors will walk out of school with their Chromebooks in addition to their diplomas, said Supt. Toby Gibson.
School officials have been working toward what is called “one-to-one,” meaning one computer for each student, for some time, and deferred last year’s planned implementation because of cost and training issues.
The federal government, through the CARES Act that Congress passed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, has helped the district overcome the funding issue. The district has ordered about 635 Chromebooks with about $152,000 in CARES Act proceeds, Gibson said.
The Chromebooks the district already owns will be used in grades kindergarten through two at a ratio of about two students per each Chromebook, he said.
In each subsequent year, the district will have to buy new Chromebooks to make up for the ones the seniors will leave with, but with class sizes generally no more than 85 students, the expense will be “manageable” for the district, he said.
The district has wanted to go one-to-one as soon as feasible because of the way the world is now, Gibson said. Many occupations require employees to know how to work their way around a web site and use a keyboard; students generally are more visually oriented and tech savvy; and there are many education programs that assess student performance and adjust what is presented to students according to those assessments.
Some teachers had already embraced the use of Chromebooks in the classroom, and state tests are now offered by computer, he said.
The district loaned out about 150 Chromebooks to students who did not have sufficient devices at home, so they could complete class assignments while school was closed because of the pandemic.
“The situation we’re in kind of opened, at least, my eyes, if not everybody’s eyes, to the need to be able to do this, whether it be in the fall or whatever else comes down the road,” Gibson said.
Schools that already were one-to-one had a much easier transition to distance learning, he said.
“The gap between the haves and the have-nots has widened in the last two-and-a-half months,” Gibson said. “The state, I think, is starting to realize this and is starting to map out who has internet and who has devices and all this to kind of prepare for what is going into next year.”
Even if school resumes with traditional in-person student attendance, the skills teachers and students picked up from distance learning will be built into lessons going forward, bringing Brookfield closer to “actually having a 21st century classroom,” Gibson said.
School officials still have to work out policies for use of the computers and assessing financial responsibility in cases where a computer is damaged or lost.