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District will pay $300,000 to lease 600 ipads

It’s the news that could actually have Detroit Lakes Middle School students excited for next year already.

The school board passed the motion Monday that will expand the district’s iPad initiative, putting an iPad in the hands of every student in fifth through eighth grade.

Leasing the 600 devices will cost the district $300,000 – an investment board members and Superintendent Doug Froke think is a good one.

“The big thing is how and what our teachers have done with the iPads in terms of making it a staple of the classroom and the activities,” said Froke. “The iPad is a tool and aid in instruction and our fifth grade folks did a terrific job in making sure it was heavily integrated in everything they did within their curriculum.”

Froke says integrating the technology into the classrooms at a moderate pace has allowed teachers to be well trained in the devices to ensure students are able to utilize their educational potential, instead of simply as electronic flashcards.

Education Director Lowell Nicklaus says school officials will be meeting with parents in the fall to answer any questions about the iPad program and what it means to them.

Liability has been a concern to some parents, as students who lose their iPad or have it stolen will have to pay to replace them.   

Nicklaus says they haven’t had to deal with that happening yet, but understands with more students having them next year, there will also likely be a proportional increase in issues.

Cracked screens were a problem that the district was able to handle fairly easily this year, but is looking at the possibility of charging a $10 fee for insurance that would cover cracked screens and damages —not theft or lost devices.

Ultimately though, parents decide whether they will take responsibility for the iPad because the devices will not be sent home with students whose parents don’t sign a consent form.

“And we did have a few of those this year, but not many,” said Nicklaus, who says he’s heard far more positive comments from parents than not.

“They tell me things like, ‘I don’t have to fight with my kids to do homework anymore,’” said Nicklaus.

9 teachers terminated

The school board also voted to terminate the contracts of nine of its districts teachers Monday.

“It is with a heavy heart that we move through this,” said Terrie Boyd, board chair.

Froke says the decision to end those contracts was less budgetary than it was efficiency.

“For instance, we had a second grade class at Rossman this year that had five sections when they probably could have operated at four,” he said, adding that eliminating a teacher and their section would put those classroom sizes from 19 or 20 to 24 or 25 “and with them moving to third grade that’s certainly a number that’s tolerable.”

Froke says the majority of the teachers terminated only had one-year contracts in specialty positions, meaning they came into the job last fall knowing they may not have it again next year.

“And some of them we may hire back in the fall depending on enrollment,” said Froke, who says the way the law is written in Minnesota, these one-year contracts have to be ended first before re-hiring for the following year unless permanency is established.

Land talk

Although there was no action taken, board members discussed the issue of land for a possible new elementary school in a closed-session following the board meeting.

According to Froke, district leaders have given him the go-ahead to begin negotiations regarding the possible acquisition of land at two different sites.

The first is a chunk of city-owned property on North Tower Road that has another, smaller piece of county-owned land next to it along Highway 59.  Together, the parcels of land are 70 acres.

The other option is a parcel of land on Richwood Road that is roughly 50 acres.

That land is located a mile and a half north of the Highway 34/Roosevelt intersection.

“Everything is contingent on the bond election prevailing in November,” said Froke, “so that’s how the deal would be struck is that we would buy the property if the election would pass.”

At the Becker County Board meeting Tuesday, commissioners agreed to fast-track discussions with the city on a joint public works site that will likely be located in the North Tower Road area.

Once that framework is threshed out, it will clear the way for a new elementary school in the North Tower Road area, if the school district opts for that location.