Kingsport schools overhauling Chromebook policy

Rick Wagner • Jun 1, 2019 at 4:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Changes are coming to the 1:1 student-to-device ratio program in Kingsport City Schools, including doing away with the $50 technology fee and as a general rule no longer allowing fourth- and fifth-graders to take Chromebooks home.

In addition, parents or guardians no longer will be responsible for charges exceeding the cost of replacing devices, but those repair charges starting in the 2019-20 school year will be collected the year in which they are incurred rather than when students are about to graduate from high school. Not paying for Chromebook repairs means students will not be able to participate in the graduation ceremony.

During Tuesday’s Board of Education work session, Assistant Superintendent Rhonda Stringham and Chief Technology Officer Scott Pierce explained the changes were made after a study by a committee that included educators, administrators and parents.

They said the biggest overt change will be doing away with the $50 non-refundable technology fee charged to students when they receive a new Chromebook in fourth and eighth grades. However, for rising fifth- and ninth-graders, their previously paid fees will be available to offset any repairs needed but will not be refunded, Pierce explained. The system also is cutting all unpaid repair fees and all future ones to no more than the cost of the device, currently $225 for Chromebooks.

Pierce and Stringham said that parents of fourth- and fifth-graders requested their children in general not be able to bring a school-owned Chromebook home because of issues with damage. In addition, only high school students will be allowed to keep a machine over the summer, except for graduating seniors, who must turn in the machine when their classes are completed.

Among other changes, as explained in a letter to parents and posted on the school system’s website, students in elementary and middle school will receive a “loaner” machine directly from the classroom rather than from another pool of machines. Pierce said the problem was that the loaner machines often were newer than the original ones and students sometimes kept the newer Chromebook but never paid for it or for repairs to the older one.

BOE President Carrie Upshaw suggested the school system could block access to the student accounts of those who don’t pay, but Pierce said that would block access to student accounts from a school or non-school machine. Also, when a student machine is damaged, elementary and middle school students will have access to a school machine in class but not at home, while high school students may check one out of the library until repairs are made.

Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said the school system wants to be sure technology is used but used for useful things. Stringham said a report on how the machines are being used is to be made during the next school year.  

Other changes include limiting the maximum financial liability for students and parents to the cost of the machine, which is $225 for current Chromebooks, but will increase to $250 for ones to be given out this fall. A user agreement must be signed every year instead of just once, and students must take a digital citizenship course once a year instead of just once.

In addition, students in grades 6-12 will be allowed to take home machines during the summer, but cases will be provided only in grades 6-8 unless high school students request one. 

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