FLAGSTAFF, AZ — All students in the Flagstaff school district will be provided with iPads under a loan program that starts next week with middle and high school students and continues with elementary school students at the start of the next school year.
Flagstaff Unified School District voters in 2018 approved a bond measure to provide $10.6 million to pay for the tablets, cases and other accessories.
The district won't require students to use the iPads but officials say opting out could affect the potential of classroom learning, the Arizona Daily Sun reports.
"There's no more barriers," said Mary K. Walton, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. "It's opening all the doors that our curious learners expect to have open to them."
Students and their parents have been asked to sign a new loan agreement, to review an existing agreement on responsible use of technology and to pay a nonrefundable $25 annual device protection plan fee.
Scholarships for the fee are available for families in need. The fee will pay for repairs and maintenance as well as water damage and theft but not for lost devices or accessories or attempts to change device settings.
Other Arizona school districts with similar technology programs have comparable fees.
The district in 2012 began providing iPads that students shared but the voter-approved bond issue will allow students to have their own devices. The district has increased schools' internet connections to support the additional devices.
Technology Director Mary Knight told middle school families recently that her team was stressing preparations to be ready "when it's time to push the `go' button."
"There's going to be bumps along the road, for sure, but we wanted to position it for success. So we've taken a year since the bond was passed to prepare for this," she said.
Students will be encouraged to use Wi-Fi available at libraries and other public sites and they'll be shown how to download needed homework material for completion later without internet access.
The district's loan agreement says the district can monitor students' iPads to ensure acceptable use and that students "have no right of privacy in their use of district technology, including stored files."
"We track everything that happens online within the district," Knight said. "We have that ability to be administrators and supervise all district-owned devices."
Knight said district doesn't have the capacity or wish to constantly track students' online activity and that investigations would occur only if there's probable cause.
Unlike standard iPads, the districts devices will have limited access to Apple features. Students will be unable to use music apps, erase or change device settings, add or remove apps, or use features such as Siri, iMessage, Facetime or Airdrop.
Also, a filtering system prevents access to inappropriate content, and online services such as YouTube would only be permitted with teacher override.
"(We want) to make sure that this is an instructional, educational item," said Communications Director Zachery Fountain. "It's not just the iPad that you buy at Best Buy."