There’s a difference between a student throwing an iPad across the room and breaking its screen versus the charging port on a student’s four-year-old device just no longer working. Lawrence school board members asked district staff several questions Monday about issues of that nature as they began discussions on possible changes to student fees for next year.
In particular, board members focused on damage to devices that is intentional, accidental, or part of normal wear and tear. Proposed device damage charges would apply to everyone, regardless of their family income status.
The board’s work session Monday was to begin a conversation about potential changes to student fees ahead of a July meeting when they will actually vote on the issue.
There are currently no annual fees for the devices issued to each student. Students’ families pay basic fees for transportation to and from field trips and for books, materials and technology. The basic fees are roughly $110 for grades K-5 and $162 for grades 6-12. Additional fees come with a student’s participation in extra activities.
Students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals are not assessed those fees, according to a presentation to the board from Cynde Frick, the district’s executive director of finance.
The proposed device fee could change that.Pages-from-Student-Fees-3
Zach Conrad, outgoing director of data and technology, walked the board through a comparison of different districts’ fees and device protection plans.
For next year, Lawrence school district administrators have proposed an annual student device fee. Those fee structures would be as follows for students who pay full prices for meals, students who qualify for reduced-price meals, and those who qualify for free meals, respectively:
• Fees for high school students, who are issued Macbooks, would be $40, $25, or $0;
• Fees for middle school students, who are issued iPads, would be $30, $15, or $0.
Conrad said elementary students don’t usually take their devices home, which is why administrators didn’t recommend applying the fee to those students, though he said they could.
That schedule of fees could generate about $171,000, according to Conrad’s presentation.
Conrad said there’s also about $85,000 worth of lost accessories, chargers, cords and other such items that has to be paid out of the district’s general fund. For perspective, the board recently cut $6.41 million from the general fund budget, which included 90 staff positions, in large part to cover a budget deficit for the 2022-23 school year.
Lawrence school board Vice President Shannon Kimball asked if the district is charging students for those items.
“We do; we rarely collect on those,” Conrad said. “So the statements will go out, and honestly sometimes it doesn’t get marked in the system as accurately as it needs to be.”
“… So is the reason that we’re not collecting that $85,000 because we’re not doing a good job of record-keeping when we get the devices turned in?” Kimball asked.
Conrad said “that’s definitely part of it.”
“So it seems like we need to change that,” Kimball said. Conrad responded that “we’re working on that.”
The projected cost of device repairs for the 2023-2024 school year is $200,000 to $250,000. The district currently charges families a flat rate for “intentional” damages to devices — $75 for Macbook damages and $40 for iPad damages.
Under the new proposal — though Conrad said board members could make changes — the fees for damages to devices would be as follows for everyone, regardless of family income status:
• High school damages would be $50 for the first occurrence, $100 for the second occurrence, and $850 — the full cost of the device — for the third occurrence.
• Middle school damages would be $40 for the first occurrence, $80 for the second occurrence, and $299 — the full cost of the device — for the third occurrence.
Multiple board members expressed concerns about the distinction of whether damage is “intentional.” Conrad said it’s up to school administrators to make those determinations.
“We find that that language is confusing and that there is a great deal of variance in how that gets applied,” Conrad said.
Board members asked administrators to provide more clarity around those types of issues. Board President Erica Hill said if a student’s iPad slides out of their hands and is damaged that way, it’s not necessarily intentional, but it’s also not normal wear and tear, for instance.
Board member Kay Emerson said that “as a working parent,” that $850 for a third damage occurrence is a lot, and she hoped the district could look at hardship waivers for expenses like that.
Board members will make final determinations on student fees at their July 11 meeting.