A lack of technological infrastructure in North Idaho will put area students at a disadvantage under proposed state education reforms that call for students to take online classes every year to graduate, school officials say.
“Applying this plan to the school district will be a considerable challenge,” Dick Cvitanich, superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District, told the Bonner County Daily Bee. “Many of our students don’t have Internet access, and many others only have access to dial-up. Speaking as a former user of dial-up, I know that’s not ideal.”
Students in other regions with high-speed Internet access at home would have an advantage over local students who would be forced to set their schedule around access to school computers, he said.
Earlier this month, public schools chief Tom Luna outlined an aggressive overhaul in education reform as he called for more technology in the classroom and a pay-for-performance plan for educators.
The plan includes supplying ninth-graders with laptops and requiring them to take two online courses a year. The proposal also includes increasing the student-per-classroom ratio from 18.2 to 19.8 over the next five years.
Officials with the Bonner County Economic Development Corporation want a fiber optic network this year but said it likely won’t reach students outside of more densely populated areas.
“We’re trying to increase bandwidth throughout our service area, and the schools are going to be a big part of that,” said Karl Dye, executive director of the organization. “But I don’t think this technology could be used to replace the face-to-face experience of teachers and students in a classroom.”
Cvitanich also said he was concerned about the cost to the district of supplying and maintaining laptops.
“We have limited technology staff at our schools,” Cvitanich said. “The laptops add repair issues and other costs that don’t go away.”