Board discusses laptop program for Pleasanton middle schools

'We want to bring technology to all students,' district says

The Pleasanton school board heard a report from middle school principals at its meeting Tuesday night about a proposal to expand the traditional Laptop Program to all middle school students.

"We want to bring technology to all students," said district staff.

With the current Laptop Program, only students in this voluntary program have access to a laptop -- with each middle school having approximately 30% of its students in the program.

The expanded Laptop Program proposes that all sixth graders will have access to a laptop, regardless of socioeconomic status, in the 2015-16 school year.

In 2016-17, all sixth and seventh graders will have laptop access; and in 2017-18, all middle school students will have access.

Staff also presented a survey of incoming sixth grade parents asking: "In order to help improve the ratio of devices to students, would you be willing to provide a device for your child to use in school each day?"

According to staff, 60% of 507 respondents answered "Yes, I will provide a device for my child" and 15% saying no. The remaining 26% were undecided.

Parents and teachers addressed the board about their concerns, as well as support, about the Laptop Program.

Pleasanton parent Darby Limkakeng told board members that the community is behind the vision but there must also be a "clear, concise, realistic plan about how we're going to get there."

Trustee Mark Miller echoed Limkakeng's statements saying that the district must come up with a plan that notes any ramifications of the program.

The next step for this proposal will include creating a school plan and budget allocation which will include professional development, infrastructure, hardware and software, technical support and communication.

In other business:

* During the community comment session, Pleasanton teacher Mary Jo Carrion addressed the school board about their unanimous approval to rescind the calendar change.

"We had an agreement and you rescinded it. Trust has been broken," she said.

Carrion also added that teachers should continue to be a part of the calendar committee and the upcoming process should include student opinions.

"We will move forward but I would like for us to do it as a team," Carrion said.

According to superintendent of human resources Bill Faraghan, bargaining units are currently in the process of setting the new dates for the 2015-16 calendar.

* The school board received a report on four new proposed courses for the 2015-16 school year.

The proposed high school courses include: International Relations, Farm to Fork, Civil Engineering and Architecture (Project Lead The Way), and Medical Interventions (Project Lead The Way).

* The board appointed Chris Connor as Fairlands and Vintage Hills elementary interim vice principal.

* Four Pleasanton students were recognized for displaying the character trait of compassion: Georgie August, Emily Lahrs, Elisa Elizalde (absent) and Mikayla-Jayde Guevarra.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. in the district's boardroom, 4665 Bernal Avenue.

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 10:32 am

What will the expanded Laptop Program replace?

1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:03 am

Will this mean that the laptop program will then be brought to each of the high schools too?

3 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:05 am

As far as the laptop program, my child is a 6th grader at Hart and during the orientation program last year everyone was asked if they wanted to participate. We opted out since we were told that the students in the program would be bunched together in the same classes which seemed a bit restrictive. This is because all classroom notes were to be taken on the laptop (along with homework, etc.)and truthfully my kid can't type that fast.
Plus we couldn't see spending several hundred dollars on a laptop for an 11 year old.
It's now 5 months into the new school year and she's fine without the laptop. She uses our desktop computer for most of her homework (typing speed is increasing) but isn't negatively affected at all for not being in the program.
Just my 2 cents

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:06 am

@ citizen,
I guess it replaces the regular classes. At the moment, the laptop program is a choice. Kids who choose the program, take a computer to school everyday and use it for language arts, history and science. Regular classes have access to computers for some assignments but most work is done on paper. This proposal means that all students will be in the laptop program but it won't be one student to one laptop as it is now. Students will have to share unless they take their own.

6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:25 am

One of my kids was in the laptop program and the other one decided not to having seen what the older one did, thought it was too much typing and she likes to write. Not sure how this will work if they have to share laptops because all assignments are typed. From what I understand, 10 chromebooks will be issued to each class and then they hope that some students will bring their own so that the ratio of laptops to students is better. So, in a class of say 30, if 10 kids bring laptops that will mean 20 kids sharing 10 chromebooks. Seems to me that the kids taking their own will have an advantage, or will be hanging around waiting for the others to catch up?

22 people like this
Posted by No laptop kids here
a resident of Foothill High School
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:45 am

The laptop program should be abandoned altogether unless the schools start at the beginning and teach the kids how to use each computer program properly and have a keyboard (typing) class. We opted out for both kids when we found out they did not get instruction in the programs and were expected to know them at the beginning of 6th grade. I watched some of my kids friends flounder using Powerpoint and get lower grades than they should. Most of the laptop kids are inundated with too much work, too. Let's figure out Common Core first, especially math before proceeding with a laptop program for all middle school kids. My kids are in high school now and they have done just fine without a laptop program and both now have their own to use at home. Writing things out by hand actually helps you retain material better anyway.

10 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Agree with 'nolaptopkids'. They don't teach you how to use the programs so the first 2 months were really hard going for us. And unless the kids can type quickly its slow going but these classes get more work because they can get through it quicker. I don't think every kid will like though. Maybe they should figure out why people opt out of the program before making it mandatory! More importantly, lets concentrate on implementing common core before bringing about more major changes.

1 person likes this
Posted by Get it together!
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:30 pm

The parents in this community are no longer confident that major decisions can be made in a rational way and in a way that doesn't further erode our confidence and our children's education. Darby Limkakeng pointed out the common sense factors that need to go along with any changes they plan to make. I am in support of a well defined laptop program and a useful balance of technology in the classrooms but I have to ask: Was the old laptop program so broken that it needed to be fixed in such a major way? There are other things that should be settled before something of this magnitude is started.

For example, how long does PUSD and the board think parents should be expected to wait until they make a decision about the 2015-16 calendar? We are about half way through this school year and this is still going on?! I was in support of a somewhat modified calendar but now I'm feeling nothing but frustration and distrust that this has gone on so long and is still not settled.

Being that we're going back to the old calendar (at least I think we are) WHEN WILL SCHOOL START? Will it start 8/24? 8/31? Can they at least get it together enough to tell us WHEN a final decision will be announced? Is there not a deadline they have to adhere to? There must be.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood

on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood

on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

2 people like this
Posted by The Dude
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Typing on a laptop is pretty bad for posture (forward head, upper-cross syndrome). No thanks. Kids get enough hunched over from cell phones.

2 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:58 pm

To The Dude - also hunched over from those heavy backpacks. My daughter's back pack must weigh 25+ pounds and she doesn't seem to carry any unneeded stuff.

4 people like this
Posted by sasha
a resident of Valley Trails
on Jan 28, 2015 at 6:47 pm

As a parent of 2 students that both went through the laptop program at Hart, I can say it was an INVALUABLE experience for them. Their typing skills were extraordinary by the first spring and the computer knowledge they received was extensive. They are both in college now and both aced computer classes because they had been better prepared than most of the other students. The laptop program is not necessary in high school because if you have it in middle school, you know it all by high school. Each of my kids used the same laptop 6th through 11th grade. Absolutely worth EVERY penny!

4 people like this
Posted by Parent of 2 successful laptop kids
a resident of Foothill High School
on Jan 28, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Both of my children went through Hart's laptop program and both are very skilled on the laptop and technology in general as a result. They took keyboarding classes over the summer before 6th grade as recommended by the program and this skill has increased over the years. Sure they fumbled a bit on software programs at the start, but they learned from/with other kids. Both of my kids had mastered the computer by end of 6th grade (knew more than their teachers!), they got what they needed from the program and could make choices about which classes to take in subsequent years (laptop or not). When my oldest got to HS, she ran circles around the 11th and 12th graders when it came to using a computer. My youngest helps teachers who are technology challenged. Learning to effectively use a computer is a life skill and is one of the best investments you can make for your child. So embrace the change folks. It's really in their best interest.

13 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:08 pm

My son was in the laptop program, but we took him out after one year. It was a big distraction and made the transition to middle school more complicated.

Now they are using up valuable class time with Chrome Books in elementary school. They seem to rush through long division, but have plenty of time to work on desktop publishing projects.

I don't care if my daughter can use embedded google links in a multimedia project if she is struggling with math. Please just focus on academics.

3 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 29, 2015 at 8:04 am

I agree that learning the computer is a necessary life skill but I think middle school kids these days have had some type of screen in their hands since they were babies, as have most of their friends.
My daughter (who is not in the laptop program) has no problem using any type of electronic device to do research, homework or communicate with friends on various platforms using electronic means. She's no genius, just computer savvy like most kids are these days. plus she's gone through the computer labs while she was in elementary school where she picked up some tricks and skills.
Not saying the laptop program is a waste of time, just saying that by a certain age most kids already have a pretty good skill set.

5 people like this
Posted by To Sasha
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Jan 29, 2015 at 7:30 pm

To Sasha-
The best part of your post, by far, was "worth every penny". What about the students who can't afford it? They get a loner, but what if they can't afford Internet? How about a printer, which was considered mandatory. You are in a bubble and it's a shame that you cannot see outside of it.

This is a great decision by our middle school principals. It will be an additional tool teachers can use to expand their curriculum. It will not be the only tool.

We decided not to enroll our daughter in the program because I didn't like the possible amount of screen time. When it was my son's turn to enroll, we didn't even consider it. I had heard so many stories of student attitudes, laptop teachers who were rude to kids because they had a Chromebook (the cheaper device), unfair advantages to those in the program.

Pleasanton Weekly ran several stories about how the laptop program encouraged higher grades (see link below). Why wouldn't we give that advantage to ALL of our students in the district?

Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2015 at 10:24 pm

In addition to loaner laptops, the district has always provided printers and wifi connection at home for any student that can't afford it. The laptop program has always been available to all students. As you said, you opted your kids out of the programme for reasons other than affordability.

5 people like this
Posted by To resident
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jan 31, 2015 at 9:50 am

Can you please show me something about the district always providing printers and wifi connection at home? Your information is incorrect.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2015 at 11:43 am

I love it when people are so certain of everything! It's actually in all the info that they provide to parents each year about the laptop program. It was also brought up at the last Board meeting when they discussed this issue. Check out the board meeting video.

12 people like this
Posted by WeWentThroughLaptop
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Nov 10, 2015 at 6:37 am

All 3 of my kids did laptop at Hart. It was a waste of time and money.

They did not learn anything about computers or software or computer care or use.

It was often a hindrance to completing their work and was often a stressful time sink.

No homework or assignments were submitted electronically. Everything had to be printed.

It may help the teachers because it's easier to read printed assignments.

Everyone in my family including the children recommend cancelling the program.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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