Mars Area High School students to get laptops

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Each student at Mars Area High School will receive a laptop next year in hopes that the school eventually can go paperless, placing all textbooks and writings online.

The school board April 9 approved the One-to-One Computer Initiative, including leasing the laptops through Lenova Financial Services for three years at an annual cost not to exceed $280,000.

"We are taking a look at how we are going to bring our district more into the 21st century as far as technology is concerned," superintendent William Pettigrew said.

"It's a wholesale changeover from what we are currently doing, and we feel it is definitely a better change as far as our productivity is concerned."

The district will lease 1,150 laptop computers for students in grades 9-12 and an additional 75 laptops for teachers and staff members.

Mr. Pettigrew said the lease agreement is the best financial option for the district because it will be able to update any outdated equipment at no additional cost. Current staff will maintain the computers.

The computers will not be used for personal use, and students cannot put their own programs or applications on them, Mr. Pettigrew said.

The district developed policies and procedures regarding the distribution of laptops, the responsibilities of students and parents, access to the district's network, use restrictions and equipment maintenance.

"It will be very clear to parents and students what the rules, roles and responsibilities will be," board President J. Dayle Ferguson said.

"It's an exciting change for our staff and our students."

Solicitor Tom King is currently reviewing the policies, and the board will act on them at a later meeting.

Officials have been working on the details of the program for two years.

"A lot of people have been working on this for a long time," Mrs. Ferguson said. "We believe this is a significant investment in our staff, in our students, in our program, and we are very excited to bring this to our high school."

Teacher Chris Petrini noted that the district is "investing in physical resources rather than human resources," and she said she hopes that programs are not cut to finance the computers. "I don't want my children to lose other programs because of this."

In other action, the board authorized its bond counsel, Anthony Ditka, to create a resolution to refinance a 2009 bond issue. Mr. Ditka said the district could save $450,000 by refinancing.

"It is a good deal for the district if the market continues as it has been to refinance," he said.

The bond issue has $9.5 million remaining on it. The refinancing resolution will be voted on in May.

Mrs. Ferguson said board members interviewed superintendent candidates April 5 and 6 and will bring in a smaller group for second interviews before narrowing the field to two finalists.

"We are on pace to choose a successor in early May," she said.

Mr. Pettigrew plans to retire on or before Dec. 1.

education - neigh_north

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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