Rochester Schools Embark on iPad Initiative

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Several thousand students at six Rochester schools will soon be learning on new iPads. School board members voted unanimously on Nov. 10, with one member not in attendance, to purchase 3,480 Apple iPads at a cost of roughly $1.4 million. Each device will reportedly cost the school district $374, and the program will be funded through the district’s general fund and operating capital, according to KAAL TV.

The new iPads will be distributed to students at Pinewood, Riverside Central and Gage elementary schools, as well as Friedell, Lincoln K-8 Choice School and Willow Creed middle schools, by the beginning of the spring 2015 semester. Prior to the rollout, teachers will be given their own devices to begin training.

If the project is deemed successful, several thousand additional iPads will be phased in over the next several years. The district’s overall goal is to pair each student with his or her own device by the 2017-2018 school year. The three-year plan was estimated to cost the district a total of approximately $7 million when it was first announced in June 2012.

In an interview with KAAL prior to the vote, Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Michael Munoz voiced his support for the initiative. "We feel this is a tool that is going to help us do a better job educating our kids,” Munoz said. “Technology is here to stay and it’s the world that our kids are in. We felt that we needed to get into that world.”

Although the board committed to the program, some questions remain about security measures and blocking access to inappropriate sites and materials. Web filters will be in place on all school networks and controls on application downloads will also be installed. However, once students access an outside network, the school will not be able to control their use. Elementary school students will be required to leave the devices at the school, though middle school students may be allowed to take them off school grounds.

The initiative mirrors iPad, tablet and other technology programs in several other school districts throughout the country such as South Carolina’s Charleston County School District, Idaho’s Wilder School District and Missouri’s Riverview Gardens School District. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s widely publicized attempt to give each of its 650,000 students an iPad was both panned and applauded before administrators abandoned the effort in summer 2014.