The Urbana City Schools board chose to expand its new one-to-one Chromebook program to additional grade levels for the upcoming school year, but waited to finalize the fees until after receiving community feedback.
The board voted 3-2 to expand the program to next year’s sixth and ninth graders at its Tuesday meeting, with board members Tim Lacy and Jack Beard voting against the expansion.
Lacy and Beard said they voted against the expansion because they wanted to wait for the results of a parent survey. When asked why they didn’t seek to delay the vote instead, Beard said it had not occurred to him to delay it at the time of the vote.
Director of Technology Kurt Hanson said before the vote that junior high teachers had been working hard to incorporate options for the new technology in their classrooms.
“The teachers received a lot of training. Many spent the year transferring the curriculum to online delivery, to make it part of a 21st century classroom,” he told the board. “If we did not do it, there could be a significant impact (to their classes).”
The board delayed approving the payment options for the Chromebook program while the district seeks community responses on the program through a survey. The school board’s Curriculum Committee held a meeting Monday to hear feedback about parent concerns about the program.
The school board heard from parents at its past couple of meetings who did not like the program for cost, security and safety reasons. Some parents also thought having the technology in the hands of younger children did not make sense.
The curriculum committee asked the administration to develop the survey, which will be available for input in the next few weeks. It would likely be posted on the district’s website, Superintendent Charles Thiel said.
The board’s vote ensures the program will expand to additional grades next year; not all pricing options for families are available yet. The district added payment options after parent feedback last year, the first year of the program.
With the addition of the two grade levels, now four grades of students will have the Chromebooks at school, Hanson said. The goal is to expand the program to grades six to 12.
The school board’s next meeting will be May 16.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.