IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

South Middleton Schools Recommends Fees for Student Devices

A Pennsylvania district's technology committee has recommended requiring families to pay an annual fee of $15-$20 per student, depending on how many students they have, to cover network service, technology and repairs.

money jar for education funding
(TNS) — South Middleton School District may require families to pay a usage fee to help offset the costs of parts and repairs to laptop computers and other devices issued to students in grades 3-12.

A new fee was reviewed during a technology committee meeting Monday. That committee of school board members recommended the full board take action as early as the Aug. 1 public meeting, said Brian Ronan, district director of technology and technology support.

If approved, the new fee would require families of up to two students to pay an annual fee of $20 per student starting in 2022-23, Ronan said. He said families with three students in the district would have to pay $55-$20 each for the first and second student and $15 for the third student.

Families with four or more students would pay the $55 for three students, plus $10 for each additional student, Ronan said. "The fee is not optional, but exclusions will apply to students and families who qualify for free or reduced price lunch programs."

The new fee would replace the current optional fee of $20 per student per year. This past spring, district administrators explored ways to encourage greater participation in the optional fee. On March 28, Ronan told committee members that 24 percent of district families pay the fee, saying it was not enough of a buy-in to keep pace with the costs.

Administrators settled on requiring families of students in grades 3-12 to pay an annual usage fee at the start of each school year.

"The fee is for the support of continuity for network service and for software and hardware that provides educational resources to students," Ronan said. "The fee supports out-of-warranty repairs for hardware that fails to work through no action of the user and does not constitute damage."

For example, if the back light on a display screen stops working, the district would need to replace the screen so that the student can continue to use the district-issued device, Ronan said. "This fee will be used to get a replacement — anywhere from $35 to $75 depending on which model of the device. Though the $20 will not even cover a full-screen replacement, it will help offset with other line-items."

He cited as another example a wireless access point, a device that could cost as much as $700. In that case, the costs could be spread across multiple students for a replacement that must be done immediately, Ronan said. "It's not something where we can wait until the next budget year."

Under the new fee, families will be financially responsible for any damage caused by intentional abuse, accidents, neglect or carelessness, Ronan said. "If a student decides to bring their own device, they will not be required to pay this fee because they are using their device. If it fails or they break it, it is on them to get it repaired. The district will not repair it. It's not the district's responsibility."

In researching the proposed fee, Ronan went back to 2015 when the district started its one-on-one initiative at Boiling Springs High School. "At that point, the tech fee was $25 and it was for everyone, with the exception of free and reduced lunch," he said. "They were the only students exempted from the fee."

Prior to the Aug. 1 meeting, Ronan plans to circulate the language of the proposed fee to the committee members and Board President Brad Group. Superintendent James Estep and district solicitor Gareth Pahowka will also review the language.

©2022 The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.