SOMERSET — A proposed computer care, maintenance and support agreement that students and the school district will abide by with the new one-to-one technology initiative at Somerset Berkley Regional High School in which all students will be issued Chromebooks was discussed by the Regional School Committee last Thursday, including a fee for insurance that students or parents would have to pay, if approved.
Under the proposed policy, a Chromebook insurance fee of $30 would have to be paid to the school district. The coverage would protect the device against cracked screens, liquid spills, theft, vandalism, fire, flood, other natural disasters and common computer repairs that are listed in the policy.
Somerset Berkley Regional School Committee Chairman Richard Peirce said the issue is whether the insurance should be mandatory for the parents and students. He said if a parent can't afford to pay an insurance fee, it could be waived. Peirce said if parents refuse to pay the insurance fee, they will have to sign forms that state if the device is damaged, they will have to pay a $250 replacement cost for the Chromebook.
The school district has selected the Worth Ave. Group as an insurance provider. The Worth Ave. Group is affiliated with National Student Services and has been the leader in providing personal property insurance designed specifically for students, faculty and staff of colleges and universities, according to the proposed agreement.
Regional School Committee member Victor Machado said that as the policy was presented, parents do not have an option, but to pay the $30 fee for the insurance. He said he thinks parents should be able to waive the fee, although he said he thinks it would be a wise choice for parents to pay the fee, otherwise they could risk having to pay $250 if they have to replace the Chromebook because something happened to it. Machado noted that parents do not have to pay insurance on books that the high school issues them.
Under the agreement, students will be issued a Chromebook by the school district and will be required to bring a fully charged device to school each day and follow the directions of teachers for when and if the devices should be open and used in class.
Students will be required to keep the Chromebooks in an appropriate protective case at all times and close it and carry it in a protective sleeve or backpack when moving. The students will be asked to use caution when eating or drinking near the Chromebook understanding not doing so could result in significant damage to the device. The student is required to return the Chromebook to the school in the same condition that he or she received it, taking into consideration normal wear and tear.
Regional School Committee member Julie Ramos Gagliardi was not able to to attend last week's meeting, but sent a memorandum with her concerns about the one-to-one technology initiative. She wanted to know about the use of cell phones by students at the school, once they have Chromebooks. Peirce said the school administration indicated that cell phones will not be needed by students during the school day when they have Chromebooks. Gagliardi also wants a professional development plan for using the Chromebooks in classes in the high school and a written rollout plan for the one-to-one initiative.
Peirce said it is possible that the initiative will not be ready to be started for the first day of school. He said he does not believe the Chromebooks have been ordered yet. Peirce said the budget has not been fully approved yet for the current fiscal year because Berkley is holding a Proposition 2 12/ override election on July 15 to help fund its portion of the budget. Berkley voters approved of the override at a town meeting, but also must do so at an election. Peirce said if the Chromebooks have not been ordered, he would not order them yet until he knows the regional school district's budget has been approved. Somerset has approved its portion of the budget.
Peirce said that 750 Chromebooks would be purchased for the high school, because the school already has about 250 of the devices. The school has about 1,000 students.
Last week's discussion of the policy for the one-to-one technology initiative was the first reading of the policy. The Regional School Committee has two readings of policies before voting on them.