Bethlehem School District starts to roll out laptop program
When the school year started in the Bethlehem Area School District, more than 3,000 students across six schools received Chromebooks.
Every student in eighth through 10th grade in the district received a laptop as part of the district’s one-to-one program — named for the ratio of laptops to students — that ensures every child is eventually able to work digitally.
Next fall, the district will increase the number of Chromebooks given so every secondary student has one. About 85% of elementary students in Bethlehem Area have access to a digital device in the classrooms. Unlike secondary students, elementary students aren’t allowed to bring the devices home.
Having access to a digital device doesn’t guarantee every student may be able to use it at home to complete homework since about 1 in 5 households in Bethlehem do not have internet access and others might have low speed. About 60% of the district’s 14,000 students are considered low-income, according to state numbers.
As part of the rollout, Bethlehem Area surveyed students and met with internet service providers regarding access. The district also ordered mobile hotspots for students to use and met with community partners that offer homework clubs.
The district plans to have informational nights to explain technology for parents at a community partner location.
Purchasing the Chromebooks for this school year cost the district about $1 million.
The district had been working toward digital personalization learning by training teachers and purchasing online curriculum, Superintendent Joseph Roy said at Monday’s school board meeting. This way, teachers would know how to use the technology before students received it.
“We did it the right way,” Roy said.
In other news, the district’s new transportation call center received 2,000 calls in the first two weeks of school, Roy said.
Roy added that the number of calls aren’t an indicator of issues with transportation, but also include parents asking for their child’s bus number and arrival time. Overall, he said, the first few weeks of transportation went smoother than previous years.
Morning Call reporter Jacqueline Palochko can be reached at 610-820-6613 or at [email protected]