Each Marshalltown student may have a laptop soon

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - A group of Anson Elementary students stays hard at work on their Acer chromebooks.

The Marshalltown School Board took a step closer to getting a Chromebook in the hands of each student in the district Monday.

Director of Technology Josh Wesley was granted his request to go out for bid on about 1,600 new Chromebooks, small laptop computers used by students and teachers for schoolwork. The bid request will also include computer cases and appropriate licensing for product use.

“This year … everybody is experiencing Intel chip shortages, so that has driven the price of Chromebooks up for this year,” Wesley said. “We are projecting an average value of an Intel-based device at about $270. Last year, we paid about $200 through unit.”

Intel processing chips are common in laptop computers, including those at Marshalltown Schools. Wesley said he is still recommending devices with Intel chips because of their compatibility with important programs, including testing programs for students.

Another consideration Wesley pointed to was whether to purchase touch-enabled or non-touch devices for teachers, whose current class of Chromebooks is nearing the end of its use cycle.

Wesley presented two cost estimates for the total Chromebook purchase Monday. One estimate included 430 touch-enabled Chromebooks for teachers and came in at about $572,000. The other assumed 430 non-touch Chromebooks for teachers and came in lower, at about $527,000.

“How are we making the decision on the touch or no-touch for teachers?” board member Ben Fletcher said.

Wesley said the technology department talked to district teachers and found they preferred the touch-enable devices, which also fold tent-style for better use in small groups.

“The preference by far would be to get touch devices for teachers, but the other option is being proposed as a cost-savings measure,” he said.

Wesley said the eventual Chromebook purchase would improve the ratio of Chromebooks to students at Marshalltown Schools. This purchase, for instance, would bring kindergarten and first grade students from a 2-to-1 student-to-Chromebook ratio to 1-to-1.

When bids come in after the district’s request, Wesley is set to present the results to the school board, who will have the final say on if a Chromebook purchase is made and which bid is accepted.

Wesley shared data showing most grades at Marshalltown Schools have a 1-to-1 student-to-Chromebook ratio. Currently, preschool and K-2 students have a 2-to-1 ratio.

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or

asodders@timesrepublican.com