Austintown’s Chromebook program deemed successful

Austintown Chromebooks

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Austintown Middle School and Fitch High School students are turning in their Chromebooks for the summer.

The district’s pilot program allowed students in grades 6 through 12 to use the technology in the classroom and take it home.

“In general, they’re in pristine condition, the kids took really good care of them,” Austintown Local School District Technology Director Tom Ventresco said. “They’re going to get wiped down, wiped out this summer and get ready for next year.”

The students got their Chromebooks in November, and teachers started using them in class almost right away.

“I did a lot of lab simulations and things like that in the science environment, which is important with the state testing because they have to be able to do lab simulations,” high school physics teacher Julie Williams said.

Ventresco said middle and high school students did state testing on their Chromebooks.

“I don’t know how we could have tested without them,” he said. “At AMS, they tested usually in the mornings, and then after the testing session it was a regular school day, versus rotating groups of kids through labs all day.”

High school freshman Tori Sears said she liked being able to use the technology to work on assignments at home.

“Writing papers was a lot easier than hand writing them,” Sears said. “Most of the assignments we did in English class was on the Chromebooks.”

There are 2,800 Chromebooks for students and 200 for teachers. Once all the Cromebooks are turned in, the school will do maintenance on them that it can’t do during the school year, like checking the filter.

“I really can’t do that at any time because at any given time there is 2,800 Chromebooks in kids’ hands at home,” Ventresco said. “So if I turn the filter off, guess what, they’re unfiltered at home.”

From a technology side, Ventresco said things went smoothly.

“Everything worked, I was surprised, but it was great,” he said.

Parents had to pay a $50 insurance fee for the Chromebooks. Ventresco said plenty of students cashed in on that investment for cracked or broken screens. Other books needed general repairs.

“Three quarters of those are warranty issues, bad keyboard, the track pad went bad, battery doesn’t charge,” said Ventresco. “HP is backing that up now.”

The school district plans to have the Chromebooks ready for students the first week of school. It will be the first full year the students and teachers use the technology.

Other Mahoning County schools use Chromebooks or Netbooks. In Columbiana, students also take home their Netbooks.

Springfield Elementary School is getting 120 Chromebooks for next school year.

“First-grade, second-grade, third-grade and fourth-grade will have a cart of 30 to share among the grade levels,” said Superintendent-Elect Tom Yazvac.

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