By Lilly Milman

Courtney Ellingson’s combined first- and second-grade classroom will use new Google technology in the 2019-20 school year, while money-saving Chromebooks will replace the fourth-generation iPads purchased in 2011.

Skagway School has been using other Google technology for about three years, said Rick Hess, coordinator of the school’s technology and maintenance department. The school uses the company’s G Suite package, which includes collaborative applications such as Google Docs and Google Slides, because it is free for educational institutions.

Price was one of the driving factors in the purchase decision, as the Chromebooks are less expensive than the Apple electronics the school has used in the past. The price of one Chromebook is half of an iPad, which elementary school students are using, and one-third of a MacBook Air, used by Skagway high schoolers. Under the purchase order presented at the July 9 school board meeting, 25 Chromebooks will cost $300 each, totaling about $7,500.

The Dell Chromebook 3100 2-1 model being purchased for elementary school use is “designed kid-proof,” according to the company, tested to withstand drops of 30 feet and created with a spill-proof keyboard. The laptop can be folded in multiple ways, so it can also function as a touchscreen tablet if needed.

Each student is assigned a laptop at the beginning of the year and can use it for homework, in-class assignments and assessments. Elementary students turn in their laptop in at the end of each class session, while high schoolers are able to take their laptops home. At the end of the school year, students must return the electronics to the school to be upgraded and cleaned.

It was time to purchase new technology for elementary students because Apple no longer develops software upgrades for the iPads, leaving them outdated, Hess said.

Skagway School Superintendent Joshua Coughran talked at the board meeting of the benefits of Chromebooks over Apple.

“The iPads that we purchased back in 2011 are slowly but surely becoming obsolete,” he said. “They were great and they served their purpose for a long time. But what Rick Hess and teachers and I have been talking about is how to replace that technology without breaking the bank, but also maintaining functionality. I think that we found the answer in these Google Chromebooks. They are fairly universal in schools … and I really liked the idea of going cross-platform, so we’re not just strictly (an Apple) Mac school.”

Ellingson’s class will likely still use iPads until September, as the school awaits delivery of the new Chromebooks.