The Golden LEAF Foundation has agreed to provide Stokes County Schools with a second $200,000 grant to expand take home devices, Chromebooks, to students at South Stokes and West Stokes high schools.
Last year a similar grant provided take home devices to students at North Stokes High School in a pilot program for the school system.
“That program has gone very smoothly,” said Stokes County Schools Director of Technology Sarah Wood. “We have some great people at North Stokes. We had great training from the Friday Institute with NC State University.”
She said the new grant would allow the system to expand the program to West and South over the next two years.
“The plan is for every student to get a device,” she said noting that left over funds from the last grant would be used for training for staff at both of the schools. “We will have to kick in some local money to supplement that and then the entire $200,000 will be used for devices. That will have a matching amount that we will have to contribute.
“We will be asking for that in our budget,” she said. “We have spent our fund balance and the for matching portion for the North Stokes project I had funds set aside. Now it will be up to the commissioners and the school board to come up with the matching funds for this grant.”
She said the Golden LEAF grant could be implemented over the next two years, but said she hoped local leaders would find the money to allow students at all of the county high schools to start next year with the new devices.
“We have a little leeway,” she said. “We want to be able to give the devices to the students in the fall at that start of school, but we might have to look at staggering the schools.”
She said the Golden LEAF Foundation had also added a requirement for the school system to hire an additional technology coach to be shared between West and South.
“That would impact our budget as well,” she said. “We will have to commit to doing our part if we are going to do this.”
She said that students at South and West would get similar devices to those used at North Stokes this year.
Those devices came with a standard three year warranty, but Wood noted that students and parents were required to pay for insurance for the device each year, at a cost of $25, and sign a contract highlighting security issues.
“If the device is damaged the students will be held responsible just like they would with any other school property,” she said. “If someone has an accident then it is an accident and the insurance policy will pick up and cover the repairs needed. If it is malicious or is not taken care of then the student will be responsible.”
She said the school system expected the devices to last for four years, and noted that they would pro-rate the cost of replacement in the case of damage for each of those years.
“We expect the Chromebook we give to ninth graders to last their four years in high school,” she said, adding that that the devices come pre-installed with filtering software to protect students from malicious and inappropriate websites. “There is no real hard-drive in these so the virus threat is not as much as on a PC. We use a program called ZScaler as our filtering system. It will work at home as well as it does at school, but it is not 100 percent. It only catches what someone has identified as a problem, so we try to teach our students and teachers safe searching. In the long run, that is better than building a wall to protect them because it teaches them to understand and learn how to safely navigate the web.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.