I am attempting to wrap my head around the Chromebooks at Hillsboro High School. My three high school students brought home “Chromebook loan agreement” forms on Wednesday which explained that each one of them would be required to pay a $25 “technology fee” to use a brand new Chromebook for the school year.
Up until now, the school has provided computers for students to use in class, at no charge. We have computers in our home which our kids use for their homework. So between school and home, they had access all the time.
The form also stated that parents would be responsible for the “repair or replacement costs as specified in the Chromebook Handbook or the Protection Plan Agreement.” Further on, it mentioned that parents could purchase insurance for an undisclosed amount “through the online portal.” So I went looking for more information. I discovered that Chromebooks could be purchased for as little as $149 online. I also discovered, through a link on the HCS website, that the “insurance” which is offered for the Chromebooks is $26 per year. The insurance covers accidental damage, theft, and burglary/robbery, but not mechanical breakdown.
Mechanical breakdown is defined on the website as “mechanical and electrical failures, defective buttons or connectivity ports.” The Protection Plan Agreement does not cover mechanical breakdown, thus parents would have to, according to the loan agreement.
So, $25 to rent and $26 for insurance (which may or may not cover every problem) is $51 per child, per year. As I have three students in high school, that would be $153 for just this year.
One is a sophomore and another is a freshman. By the time my sophomore graduates, we will have spent $153 just on his fees and insurance. For our freshman it will be $204. If we include the $51 we will pay for our senior this year, the total amount of money my husband and I will pay towards these Chromebooks in just four years is $408! By then, our youngest will be a freshman, and we will begin to pay out another cycle of $204 for use of this device.
Altogether, $612. Enough to buy three or four of these Chromebooks. Yet, page 14 of the student handbook states “students are not allowed to use their own devices at school unless otherwise directed by a teacher or administrator.”
Hillsboro High School is a public school. It is bad enough that we have to pay fees for participation in music and theatre programs. In the past 25 years we have come to expect that such “extracurricular” activities cost money. But this “technology fee” and the accompanying “insurance”— this is for something that kids will supposedly need in class, every day. A Chromebook, which the school district has already paid for. A Chromebook, which my kids will not need at home.
A Chromebook, the use of which will end up costing my family $612 — four times its worth. How many other families are out there like mine? On Aug. 8 there was an article in the local paper stating that Hillsboro City Schools has “the state’s highest rate of student homelessness.” How many of these kids will be able to afford a $25 technology fee and $26 for insurance? Over a quarter of the students in Hillsboro City Schools live in poverty. How many Hillsboro students are eligible for free or reduced lunches — 30 percent, 40 percent? Hillsboro City Schools should be mindful of the socioeconomic level of the students in its district. Use resources to help their students.
Expecting each student to pay $25 to 51 to use a computer in class is wrong. A better idea would be to maintain a computer lab at the high school where students can go during study hall or before or after school to work on homework.
I ask the administration, please rethink this decision.