Lehigh Valley

Catasauqua school board OKs personal laptops for high school students

CATASAUQUA, Pa. - After a lengthy and fractious debate, the Catasauqua Area School District Board of Directors voted 5-4 to approve an initiative where all high school students will receive a personal laptop computer for the 2014-2015 school year during Tuesday night's meeting.

The "1:1 Technology Initiative" will equip every student with an 11-inch Apple MacBook Air device and reverse a trend in which the high school has been falling further behind in updating technology in their classrooms, according to the administration of Superintendent Robert Spengler.

By approving the measure, the district will now be able to propel students into 21st century learning and prepare them for college or career, administration officials said. 

The district will lease 581 devices in a four-year deal at the cost of $155,563 annually.

All students and parents will be required to attend sessions on the issue commencing on August 4th and running through August 14th starting first with ninth graders, school officials said Tuesday night.

The administration will recommend that students and their parents purchase an insurance policy that will allow students to take the computer off school grounds following the end of the instructional day.

That insurance will cost $50 per student.

In addition, there will be a $100 deductible for computer damage and a $250 deductible for theft or loss of the computer.

Students will have the option of not taking the computer off school grounds, thus freeing them of the responsibility of purchasing the insurance, officials said.

The vigorous debate against the measure were predicated upon two central themes.

One, articulated primarily by Director Christine Naegel, was predicated upon the fact that the cash-strapped school district - one that currently can't produce a balanced budget without proposed tax increases and staffing changes - is not fiscally capable of investing in the technology at this time.

"I don't know, I'm worried about the costs," she said.

A second point of contention came from Director Dawn Berrigan, who questioned why the administration believes it was the taxpayers responsibility to equip all high school students with computers, and not their parents.

The idea to allow students to bring their own personal technology into the classroom was broached at last month's debate on the subject by Berrigan.

"I think most parents felt it was their responsibility to do this," Berrigan said.

Due to the length of the technology debate, a discussion of the 2014-2015 budget was postponed until 7 p.m. on Monday night.

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