Maryland District’s Lease Program Adds Laptops to Classrooms

St. Mary's Public Schools in Maryland have finalized a plan to bring laptops to all school teachers and administrators and to increase the computer-to-student ratio to 3:1 over the next four years. The initiative, which will cost the district about $1.8 million, will be funded by the money set aside for technology upgrades in the district's yearly budget and augmented by a one-time funding grant from the state.

The computers will be leased from Daly Computers, located in Clarksburg, and will be swapped out for newer models after four years of service. District officials explained that the investment in the technology is necessary to prepare the schools and the students for the online administration of standardized tests scheduled to begin over the next several years.

Old computers will then be sold to students, school employees and the public at about $100 per laptop as a way to make the technology more available in the county, Jim Corns, director of information technology, told the Board of Education at a meeting this month. The computers being leased cost more than $1,000 each, according to the contract.

The county's public schools are being wired to accept new high-speed fiber lines being installed throughout the county, establishing a 10-gigabit network among schools.

"It'll be extremely cutting-edge," Corns said.

The wireless signals will not only blanket the schools, but will even reach the schools' outdoor parking lots to allow school visitors to take advantage of the free internet access until 7pm each school day.

Although administrators are aiming for the 3-1 computer-to-student ratio throughout the district, some schools' numbers will be different. The perpetually struggling Fairlead Academy, which serves one of the poorest and most racially-diverse communities in the district, will have a computer for every to attempt a "flipped classroom" experiment in instruction, Corns explained.

The introduction of more computers means that many schools will be able to do away with the traditional computer labs and instead moving laptops from classroom to classroom on computer carts.

Fairlead Academy, Spring Ridge, Margaret Brent and Esperanza middle schools, along with Leonardtown Elementary and the Chesapeake Public Charter School, will be the first schools to receive the laptops. Other schools will receive them over three years.

Teachers will for the first time be allowed to take their work laptops home with them. Those computers, and a small number of computers that can be checked out by students, will have tracking software installed so the computer can be located remotely when connected to the Internet.

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