They already have lockers, and beginning next January all Penn Manor High School students may have a school-issued laptop.
Charlie Reisinger, district technology director, presented the idea of a "one-to-one" computing project to the school board on Monday.
The primary goal, he explained, is to "level the playing field for students, especially those who may not have access to learning technologies" by giving all students in grades 9 through 12 access to a personal laptop.
"This will be a change that changes everything. We are preparing students for college, careers and beyond," said Reisinger, representing a committee of teachers and district officials who met several times over the past several months.
Johnna Friedman, a school board and computer committee member, said Monday she fully supported the estimated expenditure of $578,000 to purchase a netbook-style laptop for every student at the high school in January 2014. The money is already in a capital reserve fund and does not add to the district's general fund budget.
"The dollars," Friedman said, "are really well justified."
The high school is due for a planned technology upgrade, as laptops received from the PA Classrooms for the Future grant are in need of replacement. With about 1,700 students, this would be the largest one-to-one program to date in Lancaster County.
Reisinger said the committee evaluated several technology devices before recommending the netbooks. He said teachers quickly eliminated tablets, such as the iPad and Google Nexus, citing the lack of a keyboard and the inability to run sophisticated software programs.
"Artful self-expression through writing is an essential skill, and a keyboard is essential to efficient writing," Reisinger said.
As part of the program, Reisinger said he plans to form a technical support team of students who would earn course credits similar to an internship.
"We have outstanding technology-savvy students," said Reisinger, adding "many of these students are completely off the charts for their age."
Board president Ken Long asked about the safety of the devices, in terms of protecting them from damage and viruses.
Reisinger said students would be held responsible for their own devices, which will be monitored for appropriate use and filtered via the district's network. Viruses do not pose a problem because of the district's use of the open-source Linux operating system, he explained.
"Open-source software is central to our strategy," Reisinger said. "We are able to provide powerful, secure and open-learning software at an affordable cost."
Because the devices have a three- to four-year replacement cycle, Reisinger said the district could give students an option to purchase the netbooks when they graduate.
Eventually, Reisinger said he would like to launch a similar program for students at the middle school level. For now, "high school is the place to start a one-to-one program," he said.
The board will vote on the matter at the April 1 meeting.
In other business, members of the facilities committee discussed plans to earmark money from the sale of the Millersville Commons land for improvements to athletic fields and the high school track. The district will receive $1.7 million from the sale.
The committee then discussed the latest proposals for a $10 million renovation project for Pequea Elementary School and groundbreaking plans for the new Hambright Elementary School, tentatively scheduled for the second week in April. The district will begin accepting construction bids on Tuesday.