BRIDGEPORT — Students who enter the new Warren G. Harding High School in fall 2018 won’t be supplied with Chromebooks.
Instead they will get the latest version of HP ProBooks — 1,129 of them to be exact which district officials say will be easier to maintain and upgrade.
The school board approved the ProBook purchase last week and the $258-per-device cost will be built into the existing $5.7 million set aside in the Harding construction budget for furniture, equipment and technology.
The city school building committee also approved the purchase last month after being assured the devices could be worked into the existing budget.
“We don’t want to shortchange our children,” School Board Vice Chairwoman Sauda Baraka said. “We want to provide students with what they need in order to be successful.”
Since 2013, the district has bought enough chromebooks for nearly every middle and high school student in the district. Many elementary schools have them too. Altogether there are more than 10,000 of the devices. Per board policy they stay at school and don’t go home with students.
Chromebooks have internet access and limited storage capacity but no office or word functions like a typical laptop.
Most schools in the district — other than the Fairchild Wheeler science high schools which issues laptops to students — use chromebooks because they are relatively cheap, have secure operating systems and are familiar to most in the district.
But Chromebooks break. There are about 600 broken ones in the district at the present time, according to Jeffrey Postolowski, the district’s new director of information technology. Repairs to broken Chromebooks are on hold in the current budget situation.
Postolowski said at Fairchild Wheeler, where laptops are in use, there is a dedicated technician to keep the units up and running.
Still, at a recent facilities committee meeting, when board member Howard Gardner also advocated for laptops, Postolowski agreed to look for something comparable.
What he came up with was the ProBooks, similar to a Chromebook, but they can be flipped over like a table and students can write and draw on them.
He brought models to the school board meeting and Baraka declared them better than Fairchild’s laptops.
“It’s the same price point and will cost less to manage over time, which is a really good,” Postolowski said of the new devices. “Also, they are built to military (specifications.) If you drop them, they will survive. Not that we want students to drop them.”