Beth­le­hem School District starts to roll out lap­top pro­gram

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Jac­que­line Palochko

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]

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