Los Angeles Unified's ambitious iPad project hit another snag Tuesday, as officials conceded that some schools have temporarily stopped using the tablet computers, and the school board scheduled a special meeting to get its own questions answered about the status of the rollout.
Roosevelt and Westchester high schools are among a handful of campuses that have shelved the iPads while officials figure out the best ways to distribute tablets to students during the day and keep them secured overnight. District representatives are working with the schools to try and get the tablets back in kids' hands as soon as possible.
"We're learning from what's happening," said Bernadette Lucas, director of the Common Core Technology Project. "These bumps in the road should not get in the way of our students' future."
The district is about a month into the first phase of the technology project, with $678 iPads purchased for about 50,000 students at 47 schools. Principals were allowed to decide whether kids could take them home, and those at Roosevelt, Westchester and Maya Angelou Community high schools were allowed to do so.
But about 300 students at those three schools breached security measures designed to prevent them from accessing websites such as Facebook and YouTube. Superintendent John Deasy immediately ordered all devices returned to the schools until those access issues were resolved.
That created logistical and security problems at Roosevelt, school spokesman Patrick Sinclair said. While it's time-consuming to distribute and collect iPads for each class, he acknowledged there are also drawbacks to giving them out and getting them back at the beginning and end of each day,
There were also questions about how to keep the devices safe after school and on weekends.
Lucas said officials were working Tuesday to determine how many devices had been returned and to contact students who hadn't yet brought them back.
Despite what she called a "hiccup," Lucas said the district is still on track to move ahead with its $1 billion technology project. Officials want to equip all 600,000 LAUSD students with tablet computers by the time the new technology-reliant Common Core curriculum takes effect next fall.
The timeline calls for the school board to consider bids for the second phase of the project -- another 300,000 tablets -- at its November meeting.
With that deadline looming, board member Monica Ratliff pushed through a motion Tuesday to schedule a special meeting Oct. 29 to deal with outstanding issues related to the iPad project.
Ratliff chairs a board committee on technology and noted that several policy questions came up in the panel's first two meetings that she wants to resolve before voting on a new contract.
"This is not due to district personnel not doing their jobs," she said. "The district staff has tried extremely hard to make sure the rollout is a success. But it's essential that the board weigh in on important policy decisions."
Ratliff said she wasn't clear on why principals were allowed to decide whether students could take the iPads home at the start of the rollout when the committee was told that would happen "eventually." She also wants the board to resolve issues related to parental responsibility for the lost or broken tablets and what options are available to parents who don't want their kids given an iPad.
"It's important for the board to take some responsibility for policy in how this is being rolled out," said Ratliff, who took office in July, after the previous board had approved the $30 million contract for the first phase of the project.
Many of these questions are likely to be raised Thursday, when Deasy, Lucas and other district officials will appear on an hourlong live call-in television show slated to air on the district's public station, KLCS. (Contact your cable provider for channel.)
The public can call in to 800-527-8839 during the telecast or email questions in advance to email@example.com.