SIOUX FALLS | The school district in South Dakota's largest city plans to spend more than $7 million over the next two years to update technology used by students.
The plan calls for 17,500 new Google Chromebooks for Sioux Falls students in grades 3-12 next year, and 5,300 Apple iPads for students in grades K-2 in 2014-15, according to the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/104rUsZ ). The district also will spend about $48,000 training teachers in how to use the devices.
The upgrade is spurred by South Dakota's pending move to online standardized math and reading tests, as well as more affordable technology.
"Up until this point, it's been a financial challenge," district spokeswoman DeeAnn Konrad said. "But with technology and new devices out there that are more affordable, it was time for us to look at that option."
The Chromebook is a cheaper, slimmed-down version of a laptop and needs Internet access to work; only high school students will be allowed to take them home. Students in grades K-2 will get iPads, Apple's tablet device, which does not need an Internet connection for certain applications.
School Board members have expressed support for the plan and are expected to formally approve the purchases during the upcoming budget process.
The Sioux Falls School District has about one computing device for every two students. Other districts have invested more aggressively in technology.
Harrisburg High School has had a laptop for every student for two years. Now, that district is looking into buying iPads for its elementary schools and Chromebooks for its middle schools — about one device for every two students in those grades.
"The teachers are clamoring for it because they have so much they can do on it," Superintendent Jim Holbeck said.
Watertown bought laptops for every high school student 10 years ago, figuring they would help prepare graduates for life after high school. They have replaced Gateway PCs with MacBooks and are sticking with the more costly laptop computers partly because certain multimedia applications don't work on iPads and Chromebooks, Superintendent Lesli Jutting said.
Still, she said, "Sioux Falls is embarking on a great idea. When our students leave high school, they are very well prepared."