Back to School: Tech rollout continues in Howard-Suamico

Parents and students logged into new Macbook Airs at Lineville Intermediate in Suamico on Monday, August 18, 2014.

SUAMICO - As students head back to school this year, some will have new tech devices for virtually no cost.

The Howard-Suamico School District will be giving out Macbooks and iPads this week.

It's the second year of the tech rollout, which was funded by a grant. The laptops cost more than one thousand dollars a piece. IPads can cost several hundred dollars. The school gives students the devices to use for a $75 insurance fee.

“I've never had a Mac before, but it's not so bad,” said Jed Baranczyk, who will be a freshman at Bay Port High School this year.

As the Baranczyk brothers figured out their new Macbook Airs, they say they're glad they won't fight over their family's laptop anymore.

“It'll help a lot having my own,” said his brother, Max, a junior.

The pair were some of the 1,100 high school students to pick up their laptops in the Howard-Suamico School District this week.

Students grades 3-8 will receive iPads. It's the second year of the district's digital transformation.

The district’s Information and Technology Director, Kyle Siech, says last year's pilot program with select grades was a success.

“Teachers are building their courses in there to deliver the digital content. Great reviews, kids were engaged. And that's kind of our primary goal here, to prepare them for their future,” said Siech.

Parents say the devices have helped with homework.

“My daughter had one last year,” said Amy Archibald, who was with her son, a sophomore. “It went really well. She loved it.”

To some, issuing Macbook Airs to hundreds of high school students may seem like a safety concern. But school officials say of all the Macbooks issued last year, the damage was nothing more than the normal wear and tear.

“It was that the iPad was more susceptible to that. And in our response to that, for some of the grade levels I provided a different case this year that provides more of a shock absorption for that,” said Siech.

Siech says schools learned to give teachers greater control of the devices. That way, children won't play games when they're supposed to be doing work in class.

“They can actually take control of a classroom, keep them on the task that they need to be on, so they're not off on there. We also have additional permissions and restrictions for what students can and cannot put on there,” said Siech.

But at home, it's up to mom and dad to keep students on task.

“We look over their shoulders,” said Stacy Hakes, whose son is a sophomore at Bay Port.

Siech says a snooping is okay to keep your student safe online.

It's not a completely free computer giveaway.

Students will return their Macbook Airs when they graduate high school. If they're still up-to-date enough, they will be reissued.