Superintendent Dance to test 10 schools with laptops for students

It won't be happening all at once but the first phase of what Baltimore County education leaders call a fundamental shift and change for the school system is just a few months away.
 
For Baltimore County Public Schools, it's all about creating an effective digital learning environment.
 
Superintendent Dallas Dance said he's seen first hand what kind of impact technology can have.
 
"I have a 4-year-old at home who knows Spanish [numbers] from 1-30 because of a digital learning device that's actually accessible in his school. So the reality is how do we make that opportunity then come alive for 110,00 students in Baltimore County?" Dance said.
 
The plan is spread out over seven years.
 
First, get the HP Elitebook  tablet PC to all teachers in the county before the end of this school year.
 
Then, get the devices to students at 10 specifically chosen, or "Light House," schools.
 
BCPS leaders said getting on that list wasn't easy.
 
Along with making sure there was interest from parents, there was also a lengthy application process.
 
"That application process involved the principal ensuring there was an interest in the school building and then it went a step further and that next step was that we surveyed the staff to ensure there was a significant staff commitment in order to move forward and essentially be a lab school and a pilot for this initiative," Ryan Imbriale, executive director of digital learning, said.
 
The 10 pilot schools are: Chase Elementary, Church Lane Elementary, Edmondson Heights Elementary, Fort Garrison Elementary, Halstead Academy, Hawthorne Elementary, Joppa View Elementary, Lansdowne Elementary and the new school being built in the Mays Chapel area.
 
"We knew that as kids grew in elementary school, we could actually have a better opportunity to be successful by having elementary school students drive the change for our school system." Dance said.
 
The contract between the school and Daly Computers, Inc., over seven years is estimated at $205 million.
 
Lease payments are structured as listed below:
  • Year 1: $6,838,476
  • Year 2: $18,211,667
  • Year 3: $37,451,009
  • Year 4: $50,496,075
  • Year 5: $43,657,599
  • Year 6: $32,284,408
  • Year 7: $13,045,065
School leaders said there is a way out of the contract if they're not happy with the results after the first year. If that happens, they would pay the year one cost of $6,838,476 over the subsequent three years.
 
Right now, the focus is on preparing the students for the future by preparing them to use the devices properly, Dance said.
 
"What will go into this though when students get training not just on what the unit is, but the digital citizenship that's actually required to have the unit. I've been very upfront that we have kids who make some inappropriate choices on social media, online and we have a responsibility to them to correct them while they're with us through pre-k through 12," Dance said.
 
As part of the program there will also be field technicians to repair the devices when necessary. Leaders say there will be one technician per three elementary schools, one per high school and one per middle school.
 
Once the program has been 100% implemented, there will be 89 field technicians working.
 
"These individuals will go through a full complete background investigation just like a normal BCPS employee would. They will also work very closely with our teachers, our administrators and our campus technology people to find and make sure that the problems are being dealt with, that the devices are in good working order and they will be evaluated on that process every year," Rick Gay, BCPS Procurement Manager, said.
 
The goal is to ultimately have students taking the devices home, but that will not be the case right away.
 
"We are having a lot of internal conversations about high school, middle school students at some point being able to take these devices home and the good thing is, we realize as our community changes, we have right now close to 50 percent of our students who quality for free and reduced lunch so we've been able to start having conversations with some internet service providers to provide low cost or no cost internet service for students and their families," Dance explained.
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