FORT VALLEY — Parents of Peach County High School students now have the option of purchasing insurance for computer tablets issued to them this year, said system director of technology Charlie Waters at a Tuesday study session for the Peach County Board of Education.
The tablets were issued to students this month as part of the school’s three-year federal school improvement grant that includes plans to revamp its technological resources.
The tablets replace student textbooks, and students are using them for project-based learning.
Each Hewlett-Packard computer tablet, which includes a rotating multitouch display, is valued at $2,500, school officials said.
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That cost has raised concern among some parents, as they have had to sign a waiver bearing responsibility for the cost of the tablets if they are lost, stolen or damaged to allow their children to take the equipment home.
If parents do not sign the waiver, the tablets are kept at school.
The insurance will cost $106.17 for coverage until May 2011 and protects against theft, burglary and robbery, accidental damage, power surges and vandalism. Parents will have to pay an additional $100 deductible per incident.
Insurance forms and payments are due back to the school by Friday, but the system will give parents a weeklong grace period after that to purchase the plan.
The system gave notice of the option to provide an insurance plan Thursday through its website, automated calls to parents and hard copies available at the school. So far, just 12 have opted into the plan, Waters said.
Of about 1,200 tablets issued so far, two of them have had cracked screens, and one of those was not the student’s fault, affecting less than 1 percent of the units, he said.
While there will be some issues as the school rolls out technological changes on that scale, they will ultimately benefit the system’s students, Waters said.
“Students assume to have access to technology. We’re just expanding what we have. There’s an opportunity to take it home and use it 24/7. It’s a great thing for the students of Peach County,” Waters said.
After board member Virginia Dixon raised concern about parents who may not be able to come up with money for the insurance plan within two weeks, Superintendent Susan Clark asked that the public have more faith in the decisions and judgment of those in the school system.
“There needs to be a level of trust between us and people truly in dire financial straits,” Clark said. “We’re not a coldhearted bureaucracy. Give kids a little more credit.”
Board Chairman Jody Usry also said students and parents should be more appreciative of the resources they have available to them.
“All I’ve heard about is not taking accountability for a gift of $2,500,” he said.
“This is not the reception I wanted. I find the whole thing disheartening.”
The arrival of the tablets was initially delayed after a recall of the design by Hewlett-Packard from a high failure rate on the multitouch displays caused by manufacturing issues in China, Clark said at a board meeting Sept. 7.
Peach County’s order made up a substantial amount of the tablets that were ordered worldwide, Clark said, but the company eventually moved up the system’s order to make sure the tablets were built to school standards and could arrive as soon as possible.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.