Los Angeles District Probes 71 Missing iPads in Pilot Program

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is trying to find 71 missing iPads that were distributed to students as part of a 13-school trial run leading up to its distribution of ~640,000 devices. According to district officials, of the total missing iPads, 69 were from one campus, writes Howard Blume of Los Angeles Times.

LAUSD recently began to implement an ambitious plan to buy and distribute iPads to its 640,000 students in the nation’s second-largest school district by late 2014. As part of the $1 billion project, LAUSD has started rolling out iPads in a limited pilot.

In the first phase of the project, the devices were distributed in 49 of the district’s 1,124 K-12 schools. Each student received an iPad pre-loaded with educational applications and other programs useful in the classroom. Broadacres and Cimarron Elementary in Hawthorne became the first to roll out tablet computers and others have followed.

Under the plan, the district will spend $500 million on buying tablets from Apple and a further $500 million will be spent on items such as installing wireless Internet throughout the nation’s second-largest school system. The project is funded by voter-approved school construction bonds, which typically are paid off by taxpayers over about 25 years.

The district plans to distribute tablets to all students by December 2014.

According to officials, the district has adopted new security measures that are designed to frustrate future thefts. Central to the effort are security measures to keep track of the tablets, which cost nearly $700 each and are intended to be sent home with students.

The loss of tablets last year is not an omen of things to come but an experience that has resulted in stronger safeguards, said Lt. Jose Santome of the school district’s police department. “We have a very vigorous control for this rollout,” Santome said. “We know what’s going out and deployed on every campus.”

According to Santome, five of the new iPads in the larger program have disappeared, while one of those was subsequently recovered. Last year, about 1,200 iPads were distributed at the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills, but 69 did not come back at the end of the year.

The district was not able to respond quickly last year for several reasons, Santome said. First, officials needed to sort through storage carts to determine whether any iPads had ended up in the wrong place, for example, or whether two of the devices were placed into a storage slot meant for one. Then the district had to tabulate serial numbers for every tablet to determine which ones were missing. Ultimately, he said, the district was able to link missing iPads to the students to whom they had been assigned. Investigators are in the process of interviewing those students.

Santome also said that the district has addressed security shortcomings, including activation of global positioning software for every tablet. An electronic inventory system is supposed to register at all times who is responsible for a particular iPad.

In addition, LAUSD now can shut down iPads that are reported as stolen.