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Technological school initiative still has some bugs to work out

 More than 600 iPads are about to be issued to 8th and 9th graders for classroom use to launch the 2013-14 school year.

However on Monday night, Aug. 19, the school board realized that something about the program does not compute: How are those iPads lost, stolen or damaged to be replaced.

In other words, who pays? Or should anyone pay?

Opinion among board members varied widely.

Dennis Behnke said the issue wasn’t that complicated: “If you lose a textbook, you play full replacement. Why not just do the same with these (iPads).”

But Mike Miller said: “This is a pilot program. Why not just say if (an iPad) is lost, we’ll replace it. Then go from there until we get some more data.”

Board President Stacy Johnson Myers said the entire discussion was tardy.

“My concern is the timing of this – two weeks before the start of the school year,” she said. “It feels a little bit like a surprise for families.”

The iPads were bought in bulk -- $309 apiece -- by the school district to try this fall. The idea is to distribute them to other grade levels of students in the coming years.

Board member Rich Gerczak said the public would expect some sort of replacement fee for iPads, which are school property.

Gerczak also said such a fee is needed as a “deterrent,” so that students aren’t casual about mishandling their iPads.

Unable to resolve the iPad replacement issue Monday night, new Superintendent Jamie Benson told the Journal on Tuesday that the school board would have a special meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, to settle the matter.

For the complete story, please see this week’s print edition of the River Falls Journal.