ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County public middle school students will now have devices to use while at school, and perhaps later on at home.
On Monday, the Bladen County Board of Education voted to extend the 1:1 Device Program — currently in place at both of the high schools — to the district’s seventh- and eighth-graders this year.
“At first, we would just begin to use the devices during the school day, and progress to possibly taking them home later in the year,” said Jason Atkinson, technology director for the system.
Unlike the high school practice, however, which is a three-year-lease program, the middle school endeavor will involve purchasing the systems. Atkinson recommended the board purchase 700 devices, 50 of which would be spares to be used in cases of malfunction. The price tag for the units would come to $165,805. Title I money would be used to fund two-thirds of the expense, and the remainder would be taken out of at-risk funds, according to finance officer Sharon Penny.
Before proceeding, several board members voiced concerns or questions.
“I’m in favor of technology,” said board member Tim Benton, “but I have concerns with students … being on task. They’re not on task, and teachers can’t keep them on task, because (the kids) are more technically savvy than the teachers. They can be on task, then off task, then on task again before the teacher ever gets there.”
“I’m in favor of technology,” he reiterated, “but it shouldn’t be teaching kids. Teachers should teach kids.”
When Benton also voiced a concern about blocking harmful or inappropriate websites, Atkinson agreed that rightly blocking some websites meant teachers couldn’t always access the beneficial online resources they need.
“That’s why we’ll have staff development,” he commented.
Board member Dennis Edwards raised a question about the ability of the technology department to handle an additional 700 devices, the maintenance for which the system would be responsible.
“We have a good team, and we’re doing our best to stay on top of things,” Atkinson replied. “The staff is definitely dedicated to making this project work.”
The board approved moving forward with the purchase, with Benton casting the lone dissenting vote.
Atkinson said he hopes the devices will arrive in September so the technology department can ready them for deployment.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.