IWCS pilots letting students keep Chromebooks

Published 7:41 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Students would be able to own their school-issued Chromebook computers upon finishing sixth grade under a pilot program Isle of Wight County Schools is proposing.

Currently, students in third through sixth grades are issued a Chromebook at the start of each school year and return the device before summer break.

Under the pilot program, students in third through fifth grades would be able to keep their Chromebooks during the summer months. Upon finishing sixth grade, their parents would have the option of signing paperwork to take ownership of the device.

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According to Isle of Wight County Schools’ Directory of Information Technology Eric Cooprider, Chromebooks are considered obsolete after four years. Roughly 300 to date have completed the four-year cycle. Of these, around 175 are still usable as “loaner” devices issued to high school students whose school-issued MacBook laptops are being repaired, Cooprider said.

Presently, an Isle of Wight student can’t complete third through sixth grade without changing schools at least once, and therefore will receive at least two Chromebooks. The pilot program, Cooprider said, would free up the IT Department’s time by issuing one Chromebook per student, and would incentivize students to take better care of their devices so that they’re still functional by the end of sixth grade.

The program would have a roughly $8,500 impact to Isle of Wight County Schools’ budget for the coming school year, Cooprider said. Isle of Wight County’s School Board approved including the proposal in its adopted 2023-24 budget on March 22, though the budget’s requested $2.79 million increase in local funding must still be approved by county supervisors.

Similar programs, Cooprider noted, exist at school districts in Iowa, Oklahoma and Maryland.

As of March 9, when Cooprider presented his plan to the School Board, he wasn’t aware of any other school division in Hampton Roads with a similar program, making Isle of Wight County Schools potentially the first in the region.