Sweet Home students get sweet iPad deal

At Sweet Home, Ipads Are Worth The Cost

AMHERST, N.Y. -- Thousands of students at Sweet Home Central Schools get free iPads.

Fifth graders, all the way up through seniors, have assigned devices to help them with their school work.

Sweet Home isn’t the only Western New York school district to give iPads to students, but it might have the most for the largest amount of kids.

Nearly 2,800 iPads go home with most students every night.

"The mission is to provide a tool that's transformative. So, we want to the students to have access to learning material and technology at any time during the day, not just during the school day,” said district systems engineer Robert Ehlenfield.

Schoology is the one app that every student must use.

It’s used to organize homework, submit assignments, and it helps the teachers and administration communicate with their students.

But at almost $400 each, that's a little more than $1,100,000 in iPads.

Systems engineer Robert Ehlenfield describes it as a long-term investment in Sweet Home students' futures.

"We do have the ability to replace them in an inexpensive way if they are broken,” said Ehlenfield.

Apple Care recovers a big chunk of that, and the devices have high-end protective cases.

Graduating students return their iPads, so there's a stock of used ones to serve as replacements, too.

All of these factors work together to make sure neither a family nor the district is stuck with a full replacement cost.

At the same time, accidents do happen, and Sweet Home wants to be able to recoup at least some of that. That's why there's a three-tier replacement fee, and here's how it works:

As long as student returns the actual iPad, the cost is minimal, so offenses 1 and 2 only cost $20 and $50 dollars, respectively.

"It would be impossible to expect the families to pay the full rate on replacement like that,” said Ehlenfield.

If the iPad does not get returned, or it's a third offense, that family then owes $200 dollars, and Ehlenfield says it's that high price tag that they hope disincentives anyone from stealing or selling.

Plus, the tech department keeps eyes on where the tablets go.

“We can track to location of these devices as well, so if one is lost, there's usually a good chance that we're able to locate it,” Ehlenfield said.

A two-part built in software that tracks GPS and internet use will pin point where an iPad went.

Malicious intent is rare. Ehlenfield says most of the time, kids can't remember where they put their iPad, and so that built in tracking software will help them find it.

"We've had students who have exited and neglected to return their device, and we've been able to locate it halfway across the country,” said Ehlenfield.

That monitoring technology will also send a red flag to staff if a student is accessing websites he or she should not be looking at. That type of breach in trust won’t cost students money but will cost them some disciplinary action.


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