D91 students in grades three through eight will get new Chromebooks in the fall. | Maria Maxham/Editor

District 91 elementary school students in grades three through eight may start the 2021-22 school year with brand new Chromebooks, as the school board unanimously voted on April 8 to approve the $175,950 purchase of 450 computers and spare parts.

Ed Brophy, assistant superintendent of operations, said students in those grades are currently using two models of Chromebooks, one purchased in 2015 and the other in 2017. Both, he said, “are beyond their useful life.”

One issue with older models, Brophy said, is that the battery begins to degrade over time, requiring students to plug-in and charge the computers more frequently.

Another problem is that the older devices don’t have the capability to run necessary programs. “Some of the current devices that we have cannot support the instructional tools and assessments that we use,” Brophy said.

Roll-out is expected at the beginning of next school year, so all students begin in the fall with brand new devices, capable of running all the programs necessary and with better and longer-lasting batteries.

The older models, said Brophy, will be discarded pending board approval over the summer. They will be picked up by an electronics recycler, and the district might receive some revenue in return. “But given the nature and age of these devices, I highly doubt that’ll happen,” Brophy said.

Newer models will be kept for spare parts if a minor repair is needed and can be performed by D91 technology personnel.

Brophy said that students and teachers in the lower grades received new Chromebooks this school year, which is why they won’t be receiving new devices in the fall.

When asked by Board President Kyra Tyler if current worldwide supply issues with computer components would affect the order, Brophy said if there were problems with obtaining the devices the board would be notified right away. Ideally, he said, the kids would get the new Chromebooks at the start of the year. But if that isn’t possible, “we can live through that; we can manage that,” he said.