The Zionsville Community Schools Board of Trustees approved 5-0 Monday, June 9, a proposal to equip sixth-graders at Zionsville Middle School and Zionsville West Middle School with laptops in the 2008-09 school year.

The proposal will allow 75 ZMS students and 100 ZWMS students to work with the computers in the classroom.

The initiative is an effort to put Zionsville students on track for the classroom of the 21st century.

If the program is successful, it could be expanded to include all ZCS students.

For the program, parents could purchase the laptop, which ZCS Technology Director Patti Bostwick estimated would cost about $1,100, and then lease the computer to the school system. The school system would then put the needed software onto the computer. Without parents leasing the computer to the school system ZCS could not install the software because of legal issues, Bostwick said.

For those parents who could not afford to purchase the computers, the school system would have computers available for students to check out, they could not be taken home. ZWS Principal Tim East said the school would provide an equal opportunity for all students. They would not be able to use laptops they already have because of the difficulty of coordinating the use of many different types of laptops and the many technical problems that would cause, Bostwick said.

In a survey taken by parents of ZMS sixth-graders, 137 of the 217 parents applied with the intent to purchase the specific computer. Fifty-two applied but indicated an inability to purchase the specified computer. Twenty-six indicated a “no” response to applying for the pilot. In the same survey taken by parents of ZWMS sixth-graders, 65 of the 147 parents applied with the intent to purchase the specific computer. Sixty applied but indicated an inability to purchase the specified computer. Eighteen indicated a “no” response to applying for the pilot.

A lottery will determine which of the applicants will participate in the program, and the cost of the program will depend on who is chosen. If more of the participants are able to purchase the laptop then the program will cost less. The lottery is planned within the next week.

The proposal was passed unanimously, but concerns were raised by the board and parents. The board questioned whether students who will not use the laptops will fall behind their classmates with the laptops. Similarly, there were questions as to whether the curriculum would differ between students within and without the program.

ZMS teacher Monica Plantan said the same material will be covered for all students, just in a different format.

ZMS Principal Sean Conner said that although the scholastic improvements made may not be reflected on standardized tests, the program will better prepare students for a more technology-based future.

“My gut tells me this is a fantastic program, and I hope there is a way to measure (achievement),” board member Mark Englert said.

The board also expressed concerns over the budgetary needs, should the program be expanded in the coming years.

Board member Rob Wingerter said he doesn’t know if the school will be able to afford providing laptop computers to 40 percent of the school system. He still wants to go forward with the pilot program to see if it works, and the board will deal with the problem of funding in the future.

“I just don’t see how we are going to pay for it,” board member Jim Longest said.


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