A pilot program to provide portable personal computers to Cape Girardeau students took form Thursday as a committee hammered out some of the issues involved.
Twenty-three members of the Action Research Committee met at the Adult Education Center to study the "1:1" program, which ultimately seeks to provide netbooks for every student in the Cape Girardeau School District.
"I wouldn't hesitate to call our meeting tonight a feasibility study," said Dr. Sherry Copeland, assistant superintendent who serves as the committee's chairwoman. "We've been meeting on this issue since the early summer to find out just where we are."
The issues centered on several questions about practicality that were put to a vote. The first question was how far in advance a pilot program should be started before a full implementation of the "1:1" program by the school board, with either six months or a year as options. The six-month option won out, but one educator pointed out that the timing of the program was important.
"Teachers don't necessarily want to start things at the beginning of a school year when their work load is high," said Theresa Taylor, a computer instructor at Central High School. "I feel the pilot program should be started in the later months of the school year to bring the teachers involved up to speed, and then start with the students during the pilot period from August until January."
Another question was which building and core group was the most appropriate to initiate the pilot program.
Central High School was chosen as the building and the freshman English-Language Arts class was chosen as the core group, but the votes raised even more questions. Members couldn't decide whether older students placed in the freshman class would be able to participate, or if students would be allowed to take the laptops home with them. But, overall, Copeland said she was pleased with the feedback she received.
"It's needed because having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting on an issue as important as this would simply not work," she said. "It must be productive."
Another issue is funding of a fully implemented "1:1" program. Costs for every student in the district to receive a netbook and protective case have been reported to be around $300. The district's enrollment last year was almost 4,000 students.
"Funding is huge," Copeland said. "We understand the costs involved, but the final decision to implement the program rests with the school board, not us."
As for the future of the program, the committee voted to set a target date for full implementation in the fall of 2014.
"In the coming months," Copeland said, "we should complete our program recommendations and submit them to the school board. Then it's in their court."
The committee will meet again next month.
301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO