The Frankfort Independent Schools Board of Education has approved protection plans for electronic devices issued to students, some of whom will be allowed to take devices home at the end of the school day.
Protection plans for both Second Street School and Frankfort High School students were on the board’s Monday agenda. This year, FHS will participate in an optional take-home program for student devices, but SSS will not. Previously, students were issued Chromebook laptop computers at the beginning of the school year and used them during the school day.
“The reality is that we have got to move to a situation where kids can have access to take them (devices) home,” Superintendent Houston Barber told school board members. “It doesn’t mean every kid will be taking them home, but they will have access to do so.”
Frankfort High students aren't required to participate in the take-home program. Students can check out devices at the school and not pay the insurance premium.
The plan was created with the approval of Principal John Lyons by District Technology Coordinator and Network Manager Jonathan Jones and Student Technology Leadership Program Coordinator and FHS teacher Arlene Crabtree.
Beginning this year, Frankfort High students and their families can opt to pay a $25 nonrefundable fee to take their devices home and will be responsible for damage deductibles. Students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches don't have to pay the annual premium.
The protection plan covers accidental damage, theft, mechanical failure, fire, electrical surge or natural disaster damage but does not cover intentional damage; lost or damaged consumables, such as the charging brick or cable; or hacking the devices’ software systems through means like “jailbreaking” or “rooting.”
Students will be subject to paying damage deductibles and the school will keep track of claims. The software that the district uses allows internet access to continue to be filtered, even at home, Jones said.
Crabtree said the program will transfer a sense of ownership to students using the devices. Previously, students thought of the Chromebooks as “school property” and not their own, thus some students didn't use caution when using the computers, she said.
The district spent “a couple thousand dollars” to repair damages, Crabtree said. She has seen students purposely knock other students’ Chromebooks off desks, and some students repeatedly lose their devices. One student broke five screens on different devices over the course of four months, Crabtree said.
Another common problem was students' trading devices because some students would forget to charge their device at the end of the previous school day.
“So let’s say they get that device freshman year and decide to do whatever damage to it, pick keys off or draw on the device or what have you, they are going to have that device for four years because that is the device they are assigned to and held accountable for,” Crabtree said.
Second Street School’s device protection plan says that students must pay a $15 non-refundable annual fee when assigned the device, unless the student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch, which means that the student can forgo the fee. Damages that are covered and are not covered under the plan are similar to Frankfort High’s plan.
At Monday’s board meeting, Second Street Principal Sam Sams said that the school opted to not participate in a take-home program because the likelihood of damage increases significantly if students take home their devices and, right now, the school is not equipped to handle those issues.
Theft is more likely to happen, or the device could become a biohazard if bugs make their way into them. Nevertheless, Sams did not rule out a SSS take-home program altogether and said it may be possible in a few years, as students learn more responsibility.
“There’s just a lot of issues that I don’t think we are equipped to handle just yet,” Sams said.
Ensuring "digital equity" of all FIS students was a goal in the district’s technology plan that the board approved in June. The implementation of a take-home program for high school students was a specific strategy outlined in the plan, which is effective through June 2021.
Families of Frankfort Independent Schools students can also apply to get Wi-Fi service installed in their home if they did not have previous access. The program was launched in early 2018.