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TMCNet:  Hundreds of students at Lake high school start year minus iPad learning tool [Orlando Sentinel :: ]

[August 16, 2014]

Hundreds of students at Lake high school start year minus iPad learning tool [Orlando Sentinel :: ]

(Orlando Sentinel (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 16--MINNEOLA -- About 200 freshmen and new students at Lake Minneola High School will start the school year Monday with no iPads after administrators said increasing enrollment numbers weren't what they expected.


The iPads, with their multiple and targeted learning applications, are an essential tool for students, who must hit the ground running as soon as the school year starts.

The pilot iPad program was started in 2011 when Lake Minneola High School opened its doors. It replaced textbooks and is a "foundational component" of the school's curriculum, according to the district.

After realizing the mistake, administrators ordered 250 iPads on Friday, said district spokesman Chris Patton. The devices are expected to be ready for students to use by Sept. 2, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, students without iPads will be issued personal computers. Though they are not Apple products, Patton said, students should have access to most of the curriculum via the Internet until the new iPads arrive.

School Board member Tod Howard said Principal Linda Shepherd-Miller accepted more than 100 students who had transferred from other schools, which is "part of the problem." School districts allow a certain number of students to transfer every year. Those transfers are known as "out-of-zone waivers." "When we have these zone waivers, you have to have not only the space, but you have to have the resources to provide them," Howard said.

"It's a problem." Shepherd-Miller said she didn't know how many zone waivers she accepted.

Former board member Jim Miller pushed for more iPad use as a way to engage students.

"The kids are working at their own speed and on their own project," Miller said. "You see how intent they are in learning it. This is how we're going to help kids learn." Shepherd-Miller sent out an automated phone message to parents of the 584-student freshman class Thursday alerting them to the shortage. The iPad pickup began Tuesday and Wednesday for returning students and Thursday for new students.

"We have a little dilemma here, and I have contacted the district office to help ask for some relief," the message said. "Our enrollment has increased more than what we had anticipated, and so we will have a shortage of iPads tonight." She said later that students without iPads will use laptops and would not be at a disadvantage.

"In the past, we've had kids that say, for example, they have left their iPad at home or forgot to bring it," she said. "It's not a hindrance at all." School districts are required to provide all students with "adequate instructional materials," including textbooks, electronic content or computer software, according to Cheryl Etters, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

The additional iPads, estimated at $400 apiece, will cost more than $100,000. This includes the cost of the applications, $23 per iPad, and cases, $60 each, Patton said.

The funds will be pulled from the district's IT department and the school's budget, he said.

Enrollment numbers at the school have been "growing at a really rapid rate," Patton said. This year, there are 2,150 students at the school, up from 1,865 last year, he said.

The iPads are meant to stay with students throughout their high-school careers and then are passed on to new students after graduation. Shepherd-Miller said last year's graduating class was 367, compared with the 584 freshmen entering this year.

"The number fluctuates. I'm not always up to date with the numbers," she said. "When the numbers started creeping, I was like, 'Wow.'" David Christiansen, the district's chief of academics, said the number of students who bring their own iPads was also lower than what they projected and that some of the devices needed to be repaired.

"We're going to get them in their hands," he said.

"It's going to be fine." jomaye@tribune.com or 352-742-5917 ___ (c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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