School districts across the United States are constantly trying to improve their students' access to technology with increased training and more available hardware. It's almost always a tough sell to the school boards and beancounters, though, as technology investment programs don't come cheap.
Some schools that have managed to fund high-tech programs are finding that they're coming with a massive unexpected cost that makes their future uncertain: maintenance.
Laptop maintenance is always expected and budgeted for, but Superintendent William Shuttleworth's Maine School Administrative District No. 28 can tell you that actual repair costs ca n outpace estimates. As eSchoolNews reports, Supt. Shuttleworth recently wrote a check for $56,000 to cover the yearly maintenance on the Camden Hills fleet of laptops:
Camden Hills spends about $150,000 to lease 778 laptop computers each year from the state. The school this year exceeded that budget by more than one-third for repairs. And the $56,000 tab doesn't include the repairs covered by Apple's warranty or paid for by students for intentional damage.
Another school in New Mexico reported that students owe the district ~$150,000 in unpaid repair fees for the last 3 years of the program.
Overall repair costs vary widely from district to district, with some districts spending about $10 per student annually exclusively on repairs. Camden spends about $70 per student — a number that prompted one education technology authority to suggest, "Districts should consider a fleet of affordable computers, but everyone's reading macbook air reviews and wants the hottest technology even if it's too expensive."
A South Carolina school offers insurance policies to help absorb the financial hit when something is broken, lost or stolen:
"All but a handful of parents have opted to pay $50 for an insurance policy to replace a damaged or lost device. Otherwise, they must pay for a replacement. Parents said the insurance, which they can pay in installments, was a no-brainer."
Despite the cost, one to one laptop programs are popular suggestions to get schools in line with the 21st century's demands — although they're âno silver bullet':
"â¦ some school systems that ushered in one-to-one laptop programs amid great fanfare have begun to scrap them because of budget cuts (Lemagie, 2010); mushrooming maintenance costs (Vascellaro, 2006); and concerns about how students are using the computers (Hu, 2007)."