Tech grant funds Chromebooks for Cheshire middle school students

CHESHIRE — All 750 students at Dodd Middle School are expected to have brand new Google Chromebooks in February thanks to a state grant.

“We’re very excited about that,” said Scott Detrick, school curriculum director.

The portable personal computers, designed to be used while connected to the Internet, will be purchased with a $209,000 grant the school system recently won.

“Yeah, we were surprised,” said Dodd Principal Michael Woods. “Quite frankly, here we are in Cheshire and we didn’t think we’d get it.”

Woods said the Chromebooks will benefit the students in a number of ways. Students are scheduled to take this year’s state standardized test on computers, which would be a logistical nightmare with only two computer labs in the school.

“It’s not only exciting from a technology perspective, but it also completely levels the playing field for Bring Your Own Device,” Woods said. “That works better at the high school level. In middle school, sometimes the type of device you bring is a status thing.”

The Chromebooks will be given to students around the middle of February. The students will have a month to get familiarized before they take the state’s new standardized test. The Chromebooks are set up with the applications the students need, including virus protection. They won’t be allowed to download extra applications, Woods said.

Students will be able to take home the Chromebooks and can do their homework on programs like Google Docs.

“Nowadays they can’t say the dog ate my homework or the printer ate my homework,” Woods said. “It will all be done in the cloud.”

With Chromebook, support applications and programs reside on the web and all data is stored in the “cloud.”

When the students graduate the Chromebooks will be given to incoming students.

“We’ll be recycling them,” Woods said. “In talking to other districts who have them, their damage rate was less than 5 percent.”

This past summer, officials originally applied for a $437,000 grant, said Director of Management Services Vincent Masciana.

The larger grant would have been used to outfit students from fifth through eighth grade with computers, Detrick said.

The middle schoolers would still have received Chromebooks, and the students in the elementary schools would have received less sophisticated computers that they could only use at school, Detrick said.

They decided on Chromebooks because of the applications installed, the price and the compatibility with programs used by teachers.

District officials are looking at four different Chromebook manufacturers: Samsung, HP, Acer and Lenovo. Plus, Dell is expected to come out with one soon, Masciana said.

The Lenovo one costs the most at $350 per unit, while the other companies charge $250.

“We’re actively exploring our options,” Masciana said, explaining that a vendor spoke to district leaders Wednesday about the computers. “We got some tech specs. The Lenovo is more durable, but costs more.”

One of the questions is insurance, Detrick said. They may offer parents extra insurance for the devices.

“Right now we haven’t finalized anything on it,” Detrick said.

ebritton@record-journal.com (203) 317-2208



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