Henrico students give laptops mixed reviews

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Some Henrico students want to hit the "reset" button on the district's unique laptop program. That's causing the school board to re-think how the initiative works.

At a cost of millions, middle and high schoolers in Henrico public schools get laptops to take home for educational use. Thursday, the Board wanted to know how to make the program more effective.

The Henrico School Board got an earful about the district's laptop initiative.

"The students do not hold back," said Eric Jones, Assistant Superintendent.

Students gave the program mixed reviews. For example: some said the laptops are a helpful tool, good for research, and saving paper. Others highlighted equipment failures, unhappy tech support, and too many web sites blocked...like Facebook.

"Some of them were mad they couldn't go to Facebook and YouTube, and some of the gaming sites. And some were genuinely concerned that they didn't have the freedom to go and do the research and get the information they need," said Jones.

That prompted one board member to consider a more flexible social media policy.

"Here we are sitting with all of this. We should be putting out the most competitive students anywhere," said School Board Member Diana Winston.

But another was reluctant to open up more of the Internet during school hours.

"I think that would really, just I think unleash a lot of challenges for our teachers," said Lisa Marshall, School Board Chairperson.

The laptop initiative isn't going anywhere. It'll be back in the fall with new, less expensive, Dell computers in the middle schools, replacing Apple machines.

In a separate issue, the board met in closed session for three hours about condemning land in the East End to make way for a new high school. The Board decided to pursue condemnation proceedings, which means the issue could end up in court if the county and the current landowners can't reach a negotiated settlement.

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