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District 153 approves device fee for next year

The Homewood District 153 school board approved a $25 device fee and a $20 device insurance fee as part of the district’s student fees for the coming year. 

This year the district provided every student with a laptop computer, a case and after-hours technical support allowing each student to be connected to district services, according to Beth White, director of technology services.

Even though the district is planning for students to be in the schools next year, students in grades five through eight will be taking the personal laptop home, White told the board. Each device costs approximately $330. At graduation, the eighth graders will keep their devices. 

Kindergarten through fourth grade students will have devices available in school.

The board approved the additional fees for fifth through eighth grades during a special meeting April 6, saying it will help the district recover the additional costs of providing the devices to each student.

In other business, the board agreed to hire Acellus Learning, a firm that will offer asynchronous lessons for those students who need to remain remote learners.

The board approved a contract with Acellus at $100 per student license and a $500 fee for training district staff who will supervise student work through Acellus. The district is obliged to contract for a minimum of 100 licenses. 

The district intends to use the service for students at James Hart School. If it does not have 100 remote students at Hart, students at Churchill and Willow Schools may use the services. In addition, Acellus may be used for intervention/enrichment, said Assistant Superintendent Scott McAlister.

The latest guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education said districts are required to provide remote services for students who have a doctor’s certification that either they or someone they live with is medically compromised, McAlister said. The district has notified families of the plan and is waiting for replies to determine how it will use the Acellus program.

McAlister said the district will use federal relief money to cover the cost “given that this is a situation caused by the pandemic.”

The board also approved a contract with Swing Education to help the district find substitute teachers. Superintendent Dale Mitchell said the district has a list of regular substitutes it uses, but with COVID protocols it has been harder to find substitutes. Swing Education will recruit and screen substitutes for the district.

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