We hope the Rock Hill school district won’t backslide on its iRock initiative. The program to provide portable computers to every student in the district already is paying dividends, and the district needs to sustain the momentum.
The iRock project, championed by former Superintendent Lynn Moody, was initiated last year with hopes that it could be implemented in two phases. The first phase – giving every student in grades 4-8 and ninth-graders at South Pointe High School an iPad – was successfully completed.
Phase Two had called for each of the district’s 5,000-plus high school students to receive a MacBook Pro laptop, with all third-graders getting their own iPad. But a budget shortfall might require extending the schedule for giving students their computers.
Under what is being called Plan C, every ninth-grader at Rock Hill and Northwestern high schools, and every 10th-grader at South Pointe would receive an iPad, not a laptop, during the 2014-15 school year. Students in grades 4-8 would continue to receive iPads.
In all, Plan C would require buying 850 new iPads at an exstimated cost of $350,000.
Unfortunately, the district faces some daunting budget challenges this year. Projected revenues fall about $1.4 million short of meeting proposed expenses of $134.9 million.
Options for paring costs include a 5 percent across-the-board cut to budgets for all departments, reduced funding for special programming at some schools and cuts in professional development for using iRock. Even with those cuts, the board estimates it still would need about $776,000 from the fund balance to make up the shortfall.
Under the circumstances, it is understandable that the board would consider delaying full implementation of iRock. But we hope that won’t result in a failure to follow through on the commitment to significantly expand the use of technology in the classroom and provide all students with the means to benefit from it.
Failing to keep pace with technological progress would be a major step backward for the district. While the computing tools are certain to improve – perhaps drastically so – in the months and years ahead, our students still need to have the basic skills to use these devices and take advantage of what they have to offer.
The river may be moving swiftly, but at some point students need to jump in and swim. And the schools have to help them do that.
We fear that if the commitment to iRock is diluted or too long delayed, the district could fall short of the original goal of making every student technologically proficient. That would be a shame.
The iRock initiative is a model program that other districts no doubt envy and would like to emulate. Teachers, students and parents are enthusiastic about it.
We shouldn’t squander that enthusiasm. While we can understand that the district might take longer to implement the program than initially planned, we hope the commitment to see it through remains steadfast.