Milford students to get Chromebooks to use at school and home

By early spring, Milford students will be putting one more thing in their backpacks each day along with their textbooks and notebooks: A school supplied Chromebook.

Milford schools will be supplying students with Chromebooks, starting with grades five through nine later this school year and then moving on to other grades next year.

For those unfamiliar with the Chromebook, according to an online source, “A Chromebook is a laptop of a different breed.” Instead of Windows 10 or the Mac operating system, Chromebooks run Google's Chrome operating system.

Milford students are already familiar with Chromebooks, as they have been used in the schools for some time.

Assigning students their own Chromebook to use at home and school will ensure all students are on the same playing field, school officials said.

School Superintendent Dr. Anna Cutaia said many other school districts, including those in Darien, Shelton, Trumbull and Norwalk, already provide their students with Chromebooks.

She said the devices will allow all students “access to learning opportunities” and will allow students to collaborate with each other no matter where they are sitting.

The superintendent said that today, students interact with others across the county on video games via the Internet, and she sees this as a way of redirecting their computer time.

The rollout will start with giving the Chromebooks to students in grades five through nine — about 2,600 computers. Chromebooks cost about $230 each, but the district already has enough of the devices for the initial rollout, school officials said.

Additional computers when needed will be purchased “with funds from the Milford Public Schools’ computer budget,” according to a Board of Education presentation earlier this week by Louis Giancola, database systems coordinator.

Giancola said the Chromebooks are good because they are lightweight, the battery lasts a long time, and the district will be able to monitor their use. “They’re fairly inexpensive, even to fix,” Giancola said.

Board of Education member Jennifer Federico said she thinks “it’s fantastic” that students will be able to take Chromebooks home with them, but wondered if it would be a problem if a student didn’t have access to the Internet at home.

Giancola said that is one of the details still being worked out, and noted that there are places in the city where there is free wifi.

Several board members talked about the need to make sure students have facetime with each other and teachers and not spend too much time on their computers and devices, and administrators said they agree with that and are aiming for a balance.

A committee is still looking at some aspects of the program, such as optional insurance that families can buy in case the Chromebooks get lost or broken. They are also looking into whether students will be able to keep the Chromebooks over the summer.

Board members asked if the lower grades would eventually get Chromebooks, but Cutaia said she doesn’t see them as appropriate for kindergarteners, maybe for third graders. The committee is looking into that as well.