Allowing students from Hays Middle School to take home district-issued iPads was a concern of Hays USD 489 board members during a meeting Monday night at Rockwell Administration Center.
In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to keep the board from denying students in the sixth through eighth grades from being able to do so. The motion allowing students to take them home passed, 4-2.
“I’m not going to try to get in the middle of curriculum development that’s for the best for education, but I will reiterate that I do think it’s moving somewhat fast,” board member Josh Waddell said. “I think there’s a lot of development that still needs to go into that. This is the first time the middle school has had it.”
Waddell and BOE President Lance Bickle were the dissenting votes, and Danielle Lang was absent.
School administration is in favor of the iPads to be taken home in that it allows students the opportunity to be able to complete homework assignments on a more timely basis, along with research they can do with them. It also allows for the student to maintain a sense of responsibility to take care of the iPad. There is a $25 technology fee that goes along with taking them home to help offset potential repair costs.
“The teachers have done a lot of background, and sixth-grade teachers have really been involved with what they’ve had the kids doing this first year,” HMS Principal Craig Pallister said. “I feel like that if we don’t keep moving with technology, we’re going to take a step back — just because of the usage of the different programs, the iMovies, the different things with Canvas. If we isolate it with only eighth-graders taking them home, you’re saying sixth- and seventh-graders, ‘Even though you’re ready to do those, we can’t have you do them,’ because we don’t have time and school for you to really accelerate their program.”
A few issues Waddell presented were the availability of WiFi for students who don’t have it at home and the concern of maintaining them. He pointed out it is easier for high school students in the fact they are able to drive to an available hotspot. He also had questions as to how the school plans to deal with a broken iPad if that were to occur.
Pallister said he would deal with that much like they do with other school issued products that students are allowed to bring home.
“I think there is a difference between a high school student that can drive or feel a little more safe and secure walking to a hotspot versus a middle school student that does not have access,” Waddell said. “Especially coming off a presentation where $25 for summer school was too much. Now here’s a fee, here’s a potential increase in purchasing WiFi or having additional transportation costs. I would probably feel a lot better with an eighth-grade program starting point, rather than a complete sixth, seventh and eighth.”