Laptops to be handed out to OR middle school students – Knoxville News Sentinel

OAK RIDGE — Sought for two years by administrators, laptop computers soon will be getting into the hands of some middle school students in Oak Ridge Schools.

It’s the rollout of what Superintendent Bruce Borchers in a news release calls the “first phase of our AccessOR digital technology initiative.”

Some 400 Lenovo brand laptops, etched with the Oak Ridge Schools’ logo and address, will be distributed later this month to sixth-graders at Jefferson Middle School and seventh-grade students at Jefferson Middle.

Those initial grade levels were picked after discussions with principals and staff.

“It benefits Oak Ridge Schools as a whole to have teachers building out and sharing digital curricula in two grade levels,” the release states.

The rest of the city’s middle school students will be receiving their laptops after winter break.

The first phase of AccessOR costs $322,000, plus insurance at slightly more than $50 per laptop. Chargers and protective sleeves for the devices are included in the price.

An unexpected windfall from a 10-cent Anderson County property tax increase has been credited with helping fund the city program. Eight cents of that hike was earmarked for schools, and that revenue by law has to be divvied up between the three school districts in the county.

“We recognize that digital literacy has become essential to prepare students for college and career readiness in today’s world,” Borchers said. He said there have been many studies that show that having laptops or electronic tablets in students’ hands “raise student achievement and engagement.”

The superintendent said the program will help reach students at different learning levels, “expand the classroom beyond the school walls, and help close the digital divide in a school district with an increasingly economically-disadvantaged student population.”

The laptops also will help middle school students prepare for online state tests next spring, Borchers said. They’ll keep their devices throughout their middle school careers.

He said students and parents will be asked to sign a “procedures and expectations document” before they receive a laptop.

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