Kanawha County’s public school system has so far not recovered 1,269 of the 15,025 iPad tablet computers it has provided students over the past three school years, the county Board of Education learned Thursday.
However, Leah Sparks, the school system’s technology director, said that the loss amount should decrease as students continue to turn in the tablets. She said they must turn them in or pay for them in order to receive the new versions the school system is distributing this year.
Sparks also said that, starting this school year, replacement costs for the tablets will come out of individual schools’ supply or textbook replacement funds, and the tablets include a new feature that allows the county to pinpoint the location of missing devices.
She said that, eventually, the locations of tablets that remain missing will be turned over to police.
“We went through every single school’s report of all 15,000 that we have in the system and we went in individually to the ones that were not marked returned and we locked them with our locked message, which basically says, ‘This iPad is stolen, it needs to be returned immediately to Kanawha County Schools, here’s the number, your location has been recorded and can be reported to authorities,’” Sparks said.
“We got a lot back after we did that, and we’re still getting them back in that mode,” she said. “Once the turn-ins kind of settle down — ’cause right now we’re getting a lot of the students bringing them back — once it settles down we’re going to give that list of serial numbers to local authorities.”
She said the largest source of losses has been student transfers out of county and out of state.
“A lot of these students will pick up, sometimes in the middle of the night, and just never show up the next day,” she said.
She said the estimated loss for the products was about 2 percent annually, based on what other school districts have seen. At a loss of about 423 devices per year, she said Kanawha currently has about a 2.8 percent annual loss.
Jay O’Neal, a seventh grade English teacher at Stonewall Jackson Middle, told the board Thursday that most of his school’s students and their families couldn’t afford to pay for the optional $40 insurance coverage on their devices, which Sparks said generally allows them to receive replacement devices for only $49.
“Middle schoolers are middle schoolers, they lose things, forget things, misplace things, and, unfortunately, break things,” O’Neal said. He said he had at least 10 students last year who lost or damaged their iPads, and he questioned whether the devices are worth the cost.
“I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to keep them focused when a device that offers endless distractions is in their hands,” he said.
In response, Kanawha public schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said that in most instances, if there was a good reason, parents didn’t pay. He said leniency also extended to teachers whose devices were lost or damaged.
“We’re not going to make somebody pay and hurt and not be able to put food on the table or pay their medical bills,” Duerring said.
Also Thursday, the board approved paying about $1 million to purchase replacement buses from Parkersburg-based Matheny Motor Truck Company. Alan Cummings, the school system’s purchasing director, said that was for four 53-passenger buses and seven 77-passenger buses.