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A primer on Going Digital
Answers to the $30M questions
Manteca Unified School District teachers and staff who were involved in getting the Going Digital program ready for full launch in January 2015 are recognized during the Board of Trustees meeting in November. Applauding them at left are Superintendent Jason Messer (partly hidden) and Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

A multitude of questions have been asked about the district’s ambitious and record-setting $30 million Going Digital program. They ranged from inquiries about how the $30M price tag was spent and where all that money went, to the far-reaching impacts of the program on such school curriculum programs as the second graders’ cursive writing lessons.

Below are the most frequently asked questions and answers provided by Superintendent Jason Messer. Parents and students who have any other questions may address them to the principal at their school sites or to the campus Digital Support Technician.

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Breakdown of $30M Going Digital cost

How was the $30 million budget for Going Digital spent? Explained Superintendent Jason Messer, “The $30 million dollar budget was cost shared between devices and infrastructure to allow for the ideal learning environment. Unrestricted lottery funds were used to pay for teacher devises in the 2013-2014 fiscal budget year.”

Each of the 23,000 Panasonic 3E student computers cost $499. These devices are “not available in the consumer market place; therefore, the district received special educational pricing,” Messer said.

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Responsibilities of parents

One financial responsibility that parents don’t have to worry about in regards to the school-supplied computers is insurance coverage. All computer devices are insured by the Manteca Unified School District.

There are, however, vandalism-related damages to these devices for which parents or guardians are financially liable.

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Damages and liabilities

• If the device is damaged during the school day on campus, the students will be asked to report the damage immediately to the librarian or Digital Support Technician (DST) for replacement.

• If the damage occurs off site, meaning outside of the school such as at home, the student will need to see the librarian/DST immediately the next day with the damaged computer.

• If the device is intentionally vandalized rendering it inoperable for reuse, the parent/guardian will be liable for a maximum of $250. However, if the parent/guardian choose to participate in the lease/purchase option agreement, they will be responsible for $50 for the first incident. If the device is deemed unintentionally damaged, there will be no out-of-pocket replacement cost involved.

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In case of theft

There is a tracking device built into the student computers in case they are reported stolen. As long as the computer is on the Manteca Unified network, the district is able to track the device and protect it. Students are therefore encouraged to save all their work in the Office 365 cloud environment.

The student computers are not available on the retail market and, therefore, hold no real monetary value, according to Superintendent Messer.

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What will happen to textbooks

Superintendent Messer said, “Textbooks will still be used in classrooms throughout the school year, as yet another resource for teachers. Teachers will use many digitally enhanced references in their classrooms.

“Nationally, publishers are working diligently to ensure licenses to digital textbooks become available for textbook offerings.”

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Budget for textbooks

Even with the official launch of Going Digital, textbook materials will continue to maintain a physical presence on campus sites, said Superintendent Messer. Therefore, funds for student textbooks as well as instructional materials will continue to be on the budget for as long as necessary.

“The current annual budget for students’ textbooks and instructional materials as of first interim fiscal budget reporting is $587,524. Those funds will continue to support textbook needs as deemed necessary annually,” Messer said.

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Homeless students

Homeless students will be able to bring the school computer home. “For these unique circumstances, charging (for the devices) will be available at school,” Messer said.

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Computer lease/purchase option

Under Going Digital’s Lease/Purchase option for computers, Messer said there is a “unique pricing for families” with three or more children attending school in the district at one time. “As it is an option, not all families may choose to participate,” he said.

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Computer replacements

The student computers have a four-year life cycle. That is the option adopted by the school district. Which means, after four years, the computers will be replaced by the school district.

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Need for classroom standardization

For students who already have personal laptops that they use for school, why could they not simply download into their computers the programs and apps that they need for school? In response to that question, Messer said, “The importance of standardization in the classroom is critical for teaching and learning. The district made a conscious decision to create a truly equal environment. The technology support structure in place – one Digital Support Technician per site for most school sites – accommodates any issues students may encounter due to standardization.”

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Computer repairs

In case of computer glitch, and the student cannot use the device and needs to be fixed, the Digital Support Technician (DST) will be available to take care of the problem. If the software on the 3E computer is not working properly, the DST on campus and/or the Information Technology Helpline will be available during school hours to help restore the device. If the software malfunction happens outside of school hours, the Microsoft Store Manteca Unified School District (M2 Support Line) will be available between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

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Computer upgrades

Throughout the time a student is attending Manteca Unified, the computers can be upgraded for free under the multi-year package the district entered into with the Microsoft Campus Agreement which allows for free upgrades of all Microsoft products. “Additionally, through our partnership with Microsoft, families are able to take advantage of this program while their student is enrolled with MUSD. Automatic upgrades occur as new updates are released,” explained Messer.

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Will MUSD 2nd graders still learn cursive writing?

Yes, according to Messer.