Damage led to 10 lost deposits
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · September 06, 2013

In the first year of handing out laptops to the pupils, West Branch schools came across 10 occasions where the laptop was damaged so badly that families lost their deposit.

Three times, liquids spilled on the laptop and seven times the children cracked the cases.

Principal Sara Oswald said the pupils are still learning the difference between what the laptop cases can do and what the pupils think they can do.

“One student had his laptop in the case but the bag was not zipped and it fell out in the parking lot,” she said. “Some assume the bag is made from some super-human material.”

In some cases, the students reported a black spot appearing on their screen. Oswald said some of these pupils have been using their laptop bag as their book bag, and they’re cramming all kinds of things into a case that was just made for the laptop, causing too much pressure on the screen.

Oswald said that just about any component in the laptop can be replaced, but liquid damage is the worst.

“If you get liquid damage, you’re basically done,” she said. “That could cost $800 to repair.”

The school district’s contract with Apple, including software, service, etc., comes to about $1,300 per laptop. By themselves, the 485 laptops cost about $396,000, or about $816 each.

Families who lose their laptop deposit three times are then responsible for all future repair costs, the principal said.

School technology director Doug Cummings said about 100 laptops were repaired over the summer. Most were repaired in-house, but some had to be sent to AppleCare when they had cracked or broken parts.

The plastic case around the USB port was the most commonly damaged piece, Cummings said, because many students would slide the laptop into the case and let it drop.

“It should be lowered in,” he said. “And do not just throw it into your locker.”

Cummings said that other schools that hand out laptops are seeing the same thing.

He noted that there was no single grade that seemed to do worse than others when it came to caring for the machines.

As far as software, students are finding out that they can search the Internet to find ways to get around the firewall, Oswald said.

“But just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” she said.

Oswald reminded parents that there are ways to work out how the laptop is given to students. They can request a laptop be left at school or they can request that the school put certain controls on how it is used at home — for example, a laptop can be programmed to disable the Web or to turn off completely at, say, 9 o’clock at night.

Just like last year, the fifth-graders must leave the laptop at school until the first parent-teacher conferences.

“That gives us the opportunity to teach the students how to take care of it,” Oswald said.

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