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SPLOST funds enough Web-based Chromebooks for all middle schoolers

California Chrome has the chance to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 36 years Saturday at Belmont Park.
Whether that fleet-hoofed equine happens to champion over the other quality thoroughbreds remains to be seen. However, local school officials envision the purchase of a different version of Chrome may help champion Screven County students to a higher level of learning.
Using special purpose local option sales taxes, 525 Dell Chromebooks, 21 carts to transport the technological devices, and wireless upgrades to activate the equipment have been bought for use by every Screven County Middle School student.
The SPLOST-funded Google Apps for Education for SCMS will cost a total of $207,966 and the Chromebooks will be available for use for the 2014-2015 school year for students in grades six through eight.
The Chromebooks will cost $307.92 each for a total of $161,658. The carts are $857 each for a total of $17,997 and the wireless upgrades are $28,311.
Holly Boykin, the Screven County School System technology director, said she and Chip Weaver, the technology coach, had attended Regional Educational Service Agency or RESA meetings where the advantages of Chromebooks were discussed.
One fellow school district within First District RESA, Camden County, already had moved forward on the Chromebook platform. Camden County Schools recently used their SPLOST funding to purchase 900 Google Chromebooks in March 2013 for use by students in grades three through 12.
Boykin said Camden has seen success with the program.
Noting a saying of Superintendent William Bland, Boykin said, “We don’t want to be the first train out of the station, but we don’t want to be the caboose either.”
A survey conducted with middle school teachers was favorable toward Chromebooks, Boykin said. Out of 31 SCMS teachers asked, 27 said either “Yes” or “Yes, but nervous.” None of the teachers said “No.”
The Screven County BOE approved the purchase at its May 12 board meeting.

A Chromebook is similar to a laptop in appearance, but it starts up in less than 10 seconds because no background programs are running on the device. It uses the Google Chrome browser as its operating system as it only meant to log onto the Internet.
The device updates automatically and requires virtually no maintenance.
Google Apps for Education is specifically designed for schools as it includes “docs” for word processing; slides for presentations; sheets for speadsheets; forms; calendar; and additional programs. It allows for easy collaboration, file sharing and tight control of the learning environment.
Boykin said it has the potential to dramatically change instruction.
Agreeing with the recommendation of Boykin and administration, the school board approved the Chromebooks based on the Common Core GPS Literacy Standards being embedded with technology.
“Next year 30 percent of our students will test online,” Boykin said.
She said the Chromebooks will develop students who are ready for college and careers.
There has been success with Chromebooks in other First District RESA school systems. One device will be available for every student.
“We have a buy-in from SCMS administration and teachers,” Boykin said.
With the addition of the Chromebooks at the middle school, the Netbooks that were obtained through a grant can now be passed down to the elementary school for use, Boykin said.
“I am convinced this can be a very powerful device as we learn how to navigate and how to use it in the classrooms,” Bland said.
Also during the May school board meeting, the BOE approved a total of $116,342 of SPLOST dollars for the adoption of textbooks for English and language arts at the elementary, middle and high schools.