SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 10, 2010

In Beverly, laptops all around, but parents have to pay

BEVERLY — A new program at Beverly High will equip every student with a new laptop computer to prepare kids for a high-tech future. But there's a catch.

The money for the $900 Apple MacBooks will come out of parents' pockets.

"You're kidding me," parent Jenn Parisella said when she found out she'd have to buy her sophomore daughter, Sky, a new computer. "She has a laptop. Why would I buy her another laptop?"

Sky has a Dell. Come September 2011, every student will need an Apple. They'll bring it to class and use it for homework. Superintendent James Hayes sees the technology as an essential move to prepare kids for the future. The School Committee approved the move last year, and Hayes said he's getting the news out now so families can prepare.

"We have one platform," Hayes said. "And that's going to be the Mac."

Parents can pay for the computers upfront or lease them from the district, with the option to buy after three years. The payments should work out to about $20 to $25 per month, Hayes said. The cost also includes free tech support.

"We realize for some families that will be a stretch," he said. In those cases, the district will provide financial assistance.

Students who don't participate will be able to borrow a school-provided laptop during the day, but they won't be able to take it home, Hayes said.

Providing laptops to all 1,200 students at Beverly High would cost the school about $1 million, Technology Director Judy Miller said. Last year, the district spent $66,569 on technology.

"Realistically, we'd never get there," she said.

'More and more of this'

Beverly will be the first school district in eastern Massachusetts to launch the laptop program.

While Gateway Regional Middle School in the western Massachusetts town of Huntington also charges parents, other schools in the state provide laptops for free.

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