District determined to use technology
The Oct. 8 school board meeting highlighted the board’s commitment to ensuring every student from grades six through 12 has internet available to them at. The Kajeet SmartSpot devices, which act as mobile internet “hotspots,” were approved unanimously for purchase at a cost of $9,221.79 for 30 devices.
The purchase, which effectively acts as a rental for two years, is through internet service provider Verizon. The district intends to offer the devices as an item available for checkout from their respective libraries for students, provided that they can obtain signatures from parents or guardians affirming their lack of steadily available internet access outside of school in order to facilitate their respective educations.
Superintendent Dr. Craig Butler explained that the option was first brought up over the summer. “As we began to look into it, we discovered other school districts in the area who are using Kajeet successfully. Survey information gathered by our technology team last spring demonstrates the need for internet access for disadvantaged families in the Saucon Valley School District,” he said. “I believe this is an important step to consider in leveling the playing field, enabling all students district-wide, in the middle school and high school in this case, to have necessary access to complete homework assignments, participate in online Google collaborative discussions, pursue research and address multiple sites for information and the like,” Butler asserted, demonstrating the need in the district for these devices.
Supervisor of Technology Michael Hanssen was on hand to answer questions regarding the devices. Board member Michael Karabin inquired about the security of the devices, to which Hanssen explained that the devices would be “double filtered,” as they would be subject to security measures installed by both the manufacturer as well as the district network.
Another concern regarding the devices was the possibility of students checking them out from the library as they would a book or similar item and failing to return them. Butler opined, “we certainly don’t want these devices going home, remaining at home and, heaven forbid, not being used. Then students that need (them) don’t have access to (them). We are dealing with a limited quantity, albeit 30, and we want to make sure that we’re utilizing (them) to the maximum extent.” Hanssen explained that there is a parental permission slip that students must have completed when checking the devices out, with the parents or guardians agreeing to pay to replace them in the event that they are lost or damaged.
The motion ultimately passed after these questions, as well as a few others, were thoroughly debated, with board member Bryan Eichfeld stating, “...let’s not beat this up as a big expenditure.” Butler agreed, saying, “I think we have an opportunity to do a great thing for students this evening, to equalize the playing field and give students an opportunity who may otherwise struggle.”