By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Tupelo School District will pilot a program at Milam Elementary School next year that will allow its sixth-grade students to use their personal computers and tablets at school.
The Bring Your Own Device program will replace the one-to-one MacBook initiative at Milam next year.
Under that initiative, the district has provided a MacBook to each of its sixth- to 12th-grade students to use during the school year.
Teachers and seventh- to 12th-graders still will receive the laptop, but the Milam students will use devices they already own.
The district will have MacBooks available for those who do not own computers or tablets to use during the day. Students will not be able to take those MacBooks home.
Tupelo Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Britton said the idea for the pilot emerged from something national education consultant Bill Daggett said when he visited Tupelo in October.
“He asked the question, why do you supply students with technology when they already have up-to-date devices,” she said.
Tupelo signed a four-year lease-to-purchase agreement with Apple for the MacBook initiative. The lease on some of those computers expires at the end of this year, while the majority expire at the end of next year.
The district still owns those computers but would not be able to replace them without signing a new agreement. The pilot program will give the district a chance to explore what it might do in the future.
“It seems like the next wave will be tablets, but we haven’t decided yet,” said Superintendent Gearl Loden. “Instead of buying 4,000 new tablets, we wanted to see what happens in a controlled environment at Milam.”
Britton has had several conversations with the Madison County School District, which currently allows students to bring their own devices. She also has spoken at conferences with districts from other states that have similar policies.
Currently, parents have to pay a $250 deposit at the beginning of the year to use their MacBooks. Under the new program, she said, they can use that money to buy a device they will own.
Britton said the district will have precautions and punishments to deter theft, as it does now when students bring other valuable possessions to school. There also will be safety measures to keep students from visiting inappropriate websites at school.