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Hempfield Area School District looks to add hundreds of Chromebooks; repair costs drop

Laptop repairs are down this year in the Hempfield Area School District.

That’s a drastic change from last school year, when officials shelled out thousands of dollars to fix scores of portable computers.

Between the start of the school year and Feb. 18, the district paid nearly $24,000 to repair damage to 200 Chromebooks, said Dave Vilchek, director of technology. During the 2020-21 school year, around $107,800 was paid to fix more than 4,000 computers. That year, students largely completed remote learning because of the covid-19 pandemic.

There were 1,322 repairs made during the 2018-19 school year, costing $39,428, while in 2019-20, 1,476 repairs totaled $50,659.

“We heard a lot about the damage that was occurring to Chromebooks and we were giving considerations on how to make some changes,” said Superintendent Tammy Wolicki. Changes that were put into place included requiring students in grades 3-12 who requested a district-issued Chromebook to pay for an insurance policy.

The annual, non-refundable policy costs $25 for a single student, $40 for two students and $60 for three or more students. The fee covers unintentional and non-negligent damage.

According to Vilchek, $69,345 was collected by the district in insurance fees this year. After deducting the cost of repairs to date, $45,599 remains.

“Typically, the end of the school year includes many repairs when devices are returned,” she said. “Any remaining funds will be used to secure parts to prepare the devices for the upcoming school year.”

The school board has authorized the business office to seek proposals for Chromebooks for the 2022-23 school year. The district plans to buy 900 computers that will be part of a new device cycle where a student will use the same laptop in grades 3-7 and then another in grades 8-12.

American Rescue Plan funds will be tapped for the $214,200 computer purchase.

For 2022-23, Vilchek also suggested keeping insurance costs at their current rate.

District leaders additionally plan to use American Rescue Plan funds to purchase 900 devices each for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years as well as 1,200 touchscreen devices in the latter year for students in grades K-2.

“We’re looking at over $1 million additional dollars to be spent for the additional devices over the next three years,” Wolicki said. “We’re very fortunate to have the grant funds to be able to use to cover these devices, to at least get us through 2024.”

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .