Local school districts that want to use online courses and computers instead of paper for assignments have a problem: The number of families who can’t afford laptops and tablets is rising.
More than a third of the county’s public school students are enrolled in free and reduced-price lunch programs. That includes nearly half the students at Clark-Pleasant, Franklin and Greenwood schools and more than 60 percent in Edinburgh.
Schools can’t expect students from the families to pay $200 to $500 for the tablets or laptops they would need for an online course or to write and turn in papers electronically. That’s why districts including Edinburgh and Center Grove have purchased the devices for students who might need them.
Both districts covered the upfront costs of the devices with grants or their own technology money, and students who use them now pay additional technology and textbook fees, according to Center Grove technology director Julie Bohnenkamp and Edinburgh technology director Bob Straugh. The state covers those fees for students from low-income families.
“We’re a school. We have to provide them the tools they need to succeed. Bottom line, no matter what it takes. And just because you’re at the poverty level doesn’t mean you don’t get that right. You’re no different than anybody else,” Straugh said.
But not all schools can afford to provide a laptop or tablet for every student.