April 26, 2013

Laptop delay stalls Maine school plans

As the Governor's Office holds off on approving the large purchase, districts are facing budget deadlines and training uncertainties.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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The state's delay in contracting for school laptop computers is putting some school districts in a budgetary bind.

2012 Staff File Photo

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Schools now use MacBook laptops. Technology directors said they will have precious little time to organize training for teachers if the state chooses a radically different device.

Three of the five semifinalist devices aren't made by Apple, so teachers could have to become proficient with a different platform, such as Windows 8.

"Three of the five devices would represent a substantial shift in how we deliver instruction, and we need all the time in the world to help our teachers to come out of the gate and be comfortable with teaching with them before September," said Andrew Wallace, director of technology for South Portland's school department, which now has 1,450 laptops. "Our teachers and students are extremely resilient, but not knowing what the device is is really prohibiting planning."

Schools also face a May 2 deadline to report to the Education Department how many of their leased laptops they intend to buy from the state (for $49 each) to use for other purposes, such as for elementary students. School officials say it's impossible to answer that question when they don't know how many of the new computers they will be able to afford.

In Topsham, Gallivan said SAD 75 would like to buy 250 of its leased MacBooks, upgrade them and use them for elementary students, who have to take state-mandated achievement tests on computers.

If the state chooses one of the more expensive semifinalists, the district might instead have to buy 840 of its old MacBooks and keep them in the hands of Mount Ararat High School students.

Priest, in SAD 5, said the delay means that teachers will have to return their old computers to the state weeks before they can get new ones, so they will be without equipment to work with or train on this summer.

"The deadlines are really starting to back up, and nobody can give us a reason for the holdup," she said.

LePage's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said, "The governor is assessing the options and there will be a decision very soon."

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com


This story was updated at 11:10 a.m., April 26, 2013, to add a comment from Adrienne Bennett, Gov. LePage's spokeswoman. and to correctly identify Crystal Priest, district technology coordinator for MSAD 4, which encompasses Guilford and five neighboring communities.

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