Warwick’s classrooms evade national issues with Google’s Chromebooks

Posted 9/28/23

Throughout this school year, Warwick students will use their Chromebooks to access various programs, take statewide tests and monitor their learning progress.

Nationwide, Google’s …

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Warwick’s classrooms evade national issues with Google’s Chromebooks


Throughout this school year, Warwick students will use their Chromebooks to access various programs, take statewide tests and monitor their learning progress.

Nationwide, Google’s Chromebook program has faced scrutiny for high costs and relatively short lives. According to Max Zahn and Lilia Geho in an article for ABC News, Chromebooks incapable of security updates after a certain amount of time are a particular concern.

However, according to Warwick Public Schools Director of Technology Jeff Taylor, though, Warwick’s program is set up to avoid the problems that some other districts have had.

Taylor has seen significant change not just in the Chromebook program, which started seven years ago, but in the availability of laptops and other electronic devices.

“I think back to when I first started teaching 21 years ago, I had written a Champlin grant to get two sets of 30 laptops,” Taylor said. “When I wrote the grant and got the laptops, it was a hot commodity, and teachers had to sign them out.”

The Warwick School Department initially started providing Chromebooks for students in grades 6-12 seven years ago. Towards the beginning of the pandemic, they were able to expand to elementary students with federally funded Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. Another grant - the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) -has funded the program since, with ESSER funding going towards other priorities, including math interventionists and an elementary English Language Arts program, according to Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Lisa Schultz. Currently, the ECF is providing the Warwick School Department $684,704.70 for the Chromebook program.

The district replaces about a quarter of the school’s approximately 8,000 student Chromebooks per year in a four-year cycle. In addition, the school replaces about a quarter of Chromebooks provided for teachers and teaching assistants (TAs), which Taylor said totaled around 1,000. The system allows the district to incrementally to replace and budget the Chromebooks as they age out.

“We find that usually, four years is the time when Google is no longer providing software updates,” Taylor said. “We also see, just through general wear and tear, that the devices need to be replaced.”

Kindergarten students, according to Taylor, are issued special Chromebooks with touchscreen capabilities- something that kindergarten teachers advocated for when the program was first expanded. At the end of their year in kindergarten, students receive standardized Chromebooks. From there, students receive new Chromebooks in these four-year intervals- lasting from grades 1-4, 5-8 and 9-12.

According to Taylor, students’ new Chromebooks are distributed early so that they can be used for summer assignments as well.

The school department currently does not insure the Chromebooks, as Taylor said that insuring them had become cost-prohibitive. Any lost or broken Chromebooks must be paid for by the parents of the student that broke them, which, according to Taylor, is approximately $180. The total cost of the Chromebooks for Warwick Public Schools, according to Taylor, is approximately $240, with the extra $60 being for licensing software that students use.

“Back when I was a kid, I had my math book, and I left my math book outside and it got waterlogged and damaged,” Taylor said. “My family had to buy a new math book for the school. It’s the same idea, and in some respects, a Chromebook is probably cheaper than a new math book.”

Taylor also emphasized that a Chromebook is a tool used by teachers and is not a replacement for a teacher.

Textbooks, however, are still an expense for Warwick Public Schools that hasn’t lessened much in recent years, according to Schultz. This is in large part due to state mandates, which have required the school department to purchase new physical materials for English and math classes recently.

When Chromebooks do expire, those that have any viability left are typically given to teachers to use as extras to be used by any students that did not charge or forgot to bring their Chromebook that day.

Chromebooks that can’t be used in any capacity are stripped for parts by one of the school department’s seven technicians – usually batteries and screens are saved - before becoming e-waste.

“We really do try to get all the meat off the bone of the Chromebooks,” Taylor said. “We don’t e-waste anything that is usable to us. We put everything we can into use, even if it’s for parts.

Grant funding running out is not an immediate concern for Taylor, who has just submitted paperwork to receive a grant for the 2024-25 school year. Should the problem arrive in the more distant future, though, Taylor said that the technology budget would increase, but the cost of the Chromebooks would now be a necessary price to pay.

“It would become an item in the budget much like electricity and heat,” Taylor said. “It almost becomes a utility cost- that you need this to operate all the other aspects of your education.”

So long as the program is funded, though, Taylor said that Warwick Public Schools’ Chromebook program is in great shape.


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