By Lawrence Journal-World |

Lawrence school board approves purchasing $278K in tech accessories

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

The Lawrence school board meets for its regular meeting on Monday, March 25, 2019.

District leaders are hopeful that students who take their devices home after the last class ends in May will say more than “Great, Netflix all summer.”

Lawrence school board members — including Rick Ingram, who voiced that concern at the Monday meeting — agreed they’d like to see students use the devices for academic enrichment over the summer. That said, they supported that idea and approved the purchase of $278,498 in power cords and cases for the iPads and MacBooks students use at the district’s elementary, middle and high school levels.

Ellen Willets, the district’s director of learning and technology, explained to board members that the AGiProtect cases for iPads at the middle school level come with a full warranty that will cover repairs and replacements of devices at no cost to the district.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Ellen Willets, the Lawrence school district’s director of learning and technology, speaks to the school board during its meeting on Monday, March 25, 2019.

In a presentation to the board, Willets included a side-by-side cost comparison. The estimate of four-year costs for 5,000 of the original cases, plus iPad repair and replacement, was $767,000. If the district goes with 5,000 AGiProtect cases, it would be a one-time expenditure of $345,000, and no funds spent on repairs because of the four-year warranties.

At Monday’s meeting, one of the board’s approved purchases was 450 of the AGiProtect cases for $31,050. Those cases will serve as a “field test” to ensure they’ll work well for the district, Willets said.

The biggest concern for the cases, Willets said, was that students can no longer personalize them — no more nail polish and glitter, she said. If they did, the district would have to have a way to recoup the costs to replace those cases.

As for summer use beyond Netflix, Willets said the district “can only go up” from this year. She said staff has been working on resources that students can use over the summer, which is available online at usd497.org/futureready. She said she’ll also look into what options the district might have to track how often the devices are used, and for what purposes.

Ruth Gathunguri, a senior at Free State High School, served as the student representative on the board for Monday’s meeting. She said during her junior year especially, it would’ve been very helpful to have a laptop over the summer in order to write scholarship essays and prep for the ACT, for instance. She said she was fortunate to have a computer at home that she could use, but it would’ve been more convenient to have her school laptop.

Willets also announced that the district will migrate to GSuite for Education, which will move the district’s email program to Gmail. The planned date to switch over will be July 1, and she said it is not expected to cause any disruptions or loss of important emails. It will improve email access across devices and allow for better integration of other Google Suite programs, she said.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Ellen Willets, the Lawrence school district’s director of learning and technology, speaks to the school board during its meeting on Monday, March 25, 2019. At right is Jerri Kemble, assistant superintendent for leading, learning and technology.

In other business,

• Redesign: Staff at district schools voted last week on whether to participate in the Kansans Can School Redesign Project.

In order to apply to participate in Redesign, more than 80 percent of staff had to vote in favor. Broken Arrow, Deerfield and Hillcrest elementaries and Free State High School met that threshold with 90, 92, 88 and 81 percent approval, respectively.

School board members approved the district applying to the Kansas State Department of Education and opened the discussion on Redesign with a few questions that they’ll want to answer as the process moves along, if the Lawrence school district is selected to participate.

The application deadline for the Apollo phase of Redesign is April 5; the selected districts will be announced during the state board of education meeting scheduled for April 12-13 in Topeka, according to a news release from KSDE.

• Middle school scheduling: The school board heard from several representatives of a committee that’s been working for multiple years to revise schedules at the middle school. Board members provided feedback on their concerns; chief among them was a change to the eighth-grade schedule that would only mandate physical education for one semester instead of both.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact schools, health and county reporter Mackenzie Clark:

• mclark@ljworld.com • 785-832-7198 • Facebook/Facebook messenger: mclarkljw • Twitter: @mclark_ljw