New Laptops For All DeKalb Teachers and Students

In June, the DeKalb Schools Board approved over $27 million for the purchase of a laptop, software and accessories for each and every DeKalb Schools student and teacher.
DeKalb Schools has the 2nd highest millage rate in the state and a penny sales tax. This is DeKalb Schools’ statement on how some of that money will be distributed across DeKalb County.

DeKalb Schools Vision of Technology
• Integrated technology solutions to enhance communication
• Equitable access to devices and robust wireless network
• Community engagement necessary to support a shift to a digital learning environment
• Multiple, deliberate and continuous opportunities to learn about technology for everyone

Virtucom will provide a turnkey solution that provides storage, warehousing, delivery, shipping, imaging, engraving, inside delivery, on-site installation, training, activation, configuration/testing, acceptance, all paperwork (barcoding, etc.) and all things necessary for the provision of the specified equipment.
Note: Elementary students will not have their own laptops. Every elementary class will will share a cart of 30 laptops with another elementary class.

Financial Impact

ELEMENTARY 49308 24654 $312 822 carts @ $815 $8,361,978
MIDDLE 21670 21670 $312 $6,761,040
HIGH 27761 27761 $312 $8,661,432
STUDENT TOTAL 74085 $312 $23,784,450
TEACHER 6200 $550 $3,410,000

Gary Brantley has been the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for DeKalb Schools since 2011. Brantley provides this

DeKalb Schools Laptop Rollout FAQ

Q: Who will receive a device?
Brantley: The goal of the Digital Dreamers project and its 1:1 initiative is to build competitive students while increasing their digital footprints, with that we’ve ensured that all high school and middle school students will receive a device.
Q: What if parents do not want their child to have a device?
Brantley: This is a concern that we have addressed during deployment discussions with principals and our community stakeholder group. We will encourage the parent to allow the student to use the device. In the event that they don’t, C&I will provide the student with the proper materials and resources.
Q: Will students be able to take devices home?
Brantley: Our initial approach includes the recommendation that all devices remain on school premises for the first year of deployment. The IT Department will work with each school to ensure that they are prepared to take on the responsibility of the devices before any devices are distributed to the children. Our Readiness Assessment will include parental and PTA/PTO support, staff development, storage and security.
Q: How is this funded?
Brantley: The project will be funded through SPLOST V.
Q: When will students receive their laptops? Is there a schedule?
Brantley: We are currently working with principals and committee members to develop a full-proof deployment schedule and approach that best serves the students, faculty, staff and the community. The rollout of the 1:1 deployment will span two years.
Q: What technical support will schools, teachers and students have access to?
Brantley: Our IT Support Team – All High and Middle schools have a technician on site that provides support specifically for their school
Q: Will students receive a case to protect the device?
Brantley: Yes, students will receive a bag.
Q: Will devices come with keyboards or headphones?
Brantley: Yes, each device has a standard built-in keyboard. But, headphones will not be provided by the district.
Q: Do the devices have a camera?
Brantley: Yes, each device will come equipped with a web camera.
Q: Will parents and/or guardians have to sign something to be issued a device?
Brantley: Yes, parents will have documentation to sign.
Q: What if a device is damaged, lost, or stolen?
Brantley: The devices can be tracked if stolen or lost. The devices have a very strong warranty and a separate insurance policy for protection.
Q: Can you track the devices?
Brantley: Yes, all of the devices distributed will be tracked.
Q: What software is preloaded on devices?
Brantley: We have not completed the final list for this but each device will have every instructional software tool along with productivity tools such as Microsoft Office and Google’s G-suite.
Q: What if families do not have internet access at home?
Brantley: The 1 Million Project powered by Sprint will help us decrease this digital divide, as it will allow us to provide wifi hotspots to over 25,000 students for free for 5 years. In addition we anticipate that there will be overlap in the distribution of technology tools, specifically meeting needs of students with siblings in the school system – some who might receive devices and some who might receive hotspots.

41 responses to “New Laptops For All DeKalb Teachers and Students

  1. This is long overdue, considering laptops(technology) is the way of the world. Laptops will be a positive and proactive strategy to increase productivity in communications and academic acceleration due to technological tools and portability. Students should be able to have all related class material and test taking via and help to increase computer skills which is very relevant if life.
    Students having to carry heavy book bags raises health concerns and this will allow efficient tracking of all assignment and accountability from teachers as well. The pros definitely outweigh the cons for long term academic success. More efficient for detailed note taking, staying organized, tracking school work,
    writing, test taking, and submission of classwork and homework.students stay organized and remember school work.

  2. Retired DeKalb teacher fed up with wasteful spending.

    My only concern is lost, damaged ones, etc. How remember the nightmare with textbook inventories!

  3. Stolen laptops will be traceable. I believe the price includes warranty/insurance. I’m told any damaged laptop can be replaced at the expense of the distributor.

  4. Great news, a good use of funds.
    Dekalb offers a free Microsoft Office download. I have been unable to get the student logins to work to download the program. The login id is “S” + the student id and the password is provided by their website.
    I contacted Dekalb County via email as they suggest but no one responded.
    Does anyone know how to login?

  5. This is good news!
    But keeping the laptops at school for the first year certainly isn’t ideal. Students wouldn’t be able to do their homework on the laptop, or have access to the notes they took during the day.
    So if the laptops stay at school on nights and weekends, where will they be stored? So many schools are over-crowded and have zero locked storage areas for laptops.
    For example, when the dismissal bell rings, where will the students put their laptops? Leaving them in their last class isn’t a good idea, since they would have to retrieve them the next day before first period.
    Taking them to their first period class isn’t a good idea, unless the buses leave later to permit students to do this.
    Where will laptops go when a student has PE? It is my understanding that many schools do not have enough PE lockers.
    Laptops for each student could be good. But please don’t distribute laptops until there is a practical, workable plan to keep them safe in the first year, when the laptops remain at school.
    And don’t forget that many schools have lots of trailers, so when it rains these laptops will be going through the rain. Keeping them dry is non-trivial also.

  6. Finally, a good use of funds. More of spending like this and less spending around convocations and silly advertising simply designed to pat the county officers on the back.

  7. Chad Peterson

    I would be very surprised if the $8m expenditure at the elementary level increased student achievement within DeKalb County schools. I sure hope it does, though.

  8. This is a great use of funds. Glad we are doing the right thing for once.

  9. Laptop Boy, There is a designated computer admin type at your student’s school. If you are having problems, ask them what to do. They should be able to help you.

  10. This and That

    I teach at an elementary school. We are going to be getting Chromebooks -they are web based, not a laptop (per training)! 🙂

  11. I love Chromebooks!! As a teacher I can honestly say I love using them. They are extremely fast and reliable. Good choice DeKalb!!

  12. How did training on the chrome books go? What should parents and students expect from this endeavor?

  13. Stan,
    training went well in my school. We purchased chromebooks over a year ago with our title funds so the adjustment was fairly simple.

  14. Call do you think we will eventually be able to go paperless? Do you like the online textbooks? Eventually do you think we will be able to do all homework on the computer.

  15. Money well spent. Chrome books typically have a durable SSD or flash memory. Laptops with hard drives have moving parts that tend to break when shaken while the drive is running.

  16. Mom in Dunwoody

    Does this mean that schools will get a boost in their tech infrastructure? Specifically, the way I understand it, the network at DHS could not handle the traffic/load it had as recently as last school year, especially wireless. Adding 2000 devices will put quite a strain on existing systems unless upgrades are funded, right?

  17. Also during the first year, how will the schools charge the laptops overnight? (Mr. Brantley said that the laptops would remain at school for the first year.)
    I’m assuming that the Central Office will provide a practical and realistic means of doing this, and not just throw these wonderful devices to each school and make them solve the charging problem.
    As Mom in Dunwoody said, the high schools will have nearly 2000 devices to manage every night. 2017-18 DCSD Projections for Chamblee are over 1700 students, Dunwoody HS nearly 1900 students, and Lakeside over 2300 students. That many devices take up a lot of space and charging resources.

  18. Bandwidth – My understanding is that the school district has been upgrading bandwidth over the last couple years and that it shouldn’t be a problem. Let me know if your understanding at a school is different.
    Charging – I believe a fully charged chrome book will last 8 hours, so having a charged laptop during the day shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not sure what the plan is for chrome books that are not fully charged at the beginning of the day and run out of juice.
    Night Storage – Good question. How will the district charge 2000 laptops at the end of the day? Will the students go to their home room at the end of the day and plug into a bunch of power strips?
    When this program was first being discussed, students were going to take the laptop home and access books online and do homework. This latest Q&A from Brantley is the first I heard they were thinking about not letting students take these laptops home.
    I get frequent IT updates. I’ll look through them and see if I can summarize the info.

  19. Stan
    Mom in Dunwoody has a good point. We have also had trouble with wireless connection in our school. We have had times when it has been impossible to connect.
    My older sister has a huge house. When all of her children were still at home, she had to get an additional router (so something) so that everyone could be on and the speed, signal and connection not be impacted. I am not sure router is the correct term, but I know that she did have to have AT&T come back and add something to the system.

  20. “Router” is the correct word. Note there is a big difference between home routers and business routers. If businesses can make this work, it should be physically possible to make it work at our schools.

  21. Is there any supplemental information on these items?
    • Integrated technology solutions to enhance communication
    • Equitable access to devices and robust wireless network
    • Community engagement necessary to support a shift to a digital learning environment
    • Multiple, deliberate and continuous opportunities to learn about technology for everyone
    I could ask about a half dozen questions raised by each of these but I hope this is the intro to a deck with a much more detailed and substantive presentation. Since the District has moved into the realm of marketing and other business behaviors it should be noted if these items comprise the sales pitch it would be a very short meeting.
    Also, I believe the $550 unit price is for the teacher devices. Any justification for the additional expense?

  22. Right
    Students – 74085 @ $312
    Teachers – 6200 @ $550
    I don’t think the administration has decided on which laptop to get the teachers. I don’t believe they will be getting Chromebooks.

  23. Stan,
    I don’t want to beat this to death, but high school students rarely have home room. Usually they have home room only for the first week of a semester, and when report cards are distributed.
    Remember that some schools have an A/B schedule, which means that the first period class may not be the same every day of the week.
    Of course this can be figured out, but it isn’t a trivial problem. The schools that will have E-SPLOST-V construction during the first year of laptops will really have fun.

  24. Up until last week, I thought middle and high school students were going to be able to take their laptops home, access books online and do homework online. Maybe Brantley just meant elementary school students. Or maybe they just haven’t finalized their plans on that part yet. Notice there hasn’t been any news media on this yet. I don’t think the district is ready to go prime time on the announcement yet.
    I’m putting together an article that will give you a little more information about this initiative. It’ll go out a little after 8am tomorrow.

  25. chamblee getting screwed

    Forget laptops, I just want my kid to get a schedule. Is that too hard?

  26. The school district has a technology plan. The Purpose of the Tech Plan is to justify all the funding for the technology initiatives and grants.
    DeKalb Schools Technology Plan

  27. Dekalb Teacher

    The Chrome Books would be most effective if we had access to Google Classroom. As of now, it’s my understanding that we will need to work through VERGE/itslearning.

  28. This is great news for students and teachers! And whatever the cost, surely it will be offset by the reduced need for paper tests and books. Good going DeKalb for bringing students and teachers into the 21st century!

  29. Dekalb Student

    I have these issues:
    1. The entire wireless system is incredibly insecure.
    2. The current computers running Windows are terrible not because of network, but group policies that allow the county to control certain aspects of windows are not maintained at all. This means they are broken, and have entries that are invalid and make Windows wait the (by default long) timeout period.
    3. The bandwidth, while decent, really isn’t enough to support 2000 devices streaming Netflix at once.
    We’ll see what happens, but I have my reservations.

  30. 1. Why do you say the wireless system is incredibly insecure? Does it have low self esteem?
    2. There is all kinds of monitoring software on the county computers. Does anybody know if the new chromebooks take forever to bootup and login to the system?
    3. Netflix – let’s hope students aren’t binge watching Sponge Bob Square Pants at school

  31. DSW2Contributor

    Stan, in his FAQ, Mr. Brantley says that “each device will come equipped with a web camera.” That is perfectly understandable since it is nearly impossible to purchase laptops without built-in cameras and built-in microphones.
    However, would you please ask Mr Brantley to explain how the district will ensure that the cameras and built-in microphones will NOT be used to spy on students and their families, especially when the laptops are taken home?
    Being a CIO for a school district, Mr. Brantley should already be very familiar with the lawsuit that was filed against the Lower Merion School District, in suburban Philadelphia. Here’s a HuffPost article about it from 2010:
    Apparently, Lower Merion’s laptops had an “Anti-Theft Feature” that allowed the IT department to remotely turn on the laptop cameras and internal microphones. Lower Merion turned on this feature and recorded photos of a child eating candy in the privacy of his own bedroom. School district employees reviewing the photos thought the candy was drugs and so they tried to suspend the child from school.
    I worry that some pervert hacker will figure out how to turn on the cameras remotely and will then be able to take pictures/video of our children in their bedrooms, where they do private things like change their clothes.

  32. I started that conversation with the superintendent last week. We need to be clear about what kind of monitoring is acceptable.

  33. At my son’s private school, the school issused stickers that could be removed when the student needed to use the camera. Otherwise, the stickers are to stay on 24/7. Even Mark Zuckerberg puts a sticker over his camera.

  34. Dear Stan,
    Does it annoy you that you spend too much time responding to parents that pester you with their anal questions and in actuality, their kids are enrolled in online school ?

  35. I think everyone should have a voice or at least have the opportunity to understand how their taxes are spent.

  36. This and That

    The teachers at my school received out “laptops” yesterday. They are actually Chromebooks by Acer! The IT person came Thursday (day before) to explain about the Laptops we are going to receive. She also told us that eventually (maybe even December ) they are going to replace all of the Prometean boards with big screens. They will get rid of the teacher computers to be replaced with laptop. I teach a special education self-contained class. We just got our Promethean board 3 years ago. It is still good. Why replaced all of the Promethean Boards now?? So many other pressing issues at schools.

  37. AnotherSpoke

    Why were teachers issued “uninsured” laptops and asked to sign a contract stating that the laptop is their responsibility, even if stolen at school, and can be insured through a claim with the teacher’s homeowner’s insurance (with lines on the contract for homeowner’s insurance information)?

  38. Can you send me that documentation?

  39. AnotherSpoke

    Forms were signed and then filed. Teachers were not given copies at the time. A request will be made.

  40. Strange. In the future, please copy or get an image with your phone. I can’t imagine all teachers have homeowners insurance. It would take me some time to come up with my homeowners insurance information.

  41. AnotherSpoke

    The insurance information was not required at time of signing, only a dated signature stating our understanding of the parameters of taking said laptop. The exact cost of the laptops should something happen was also not provided, thought I presume it is $550.