Idaho kicks off school laptop bidding process

A task force created to help implement Luna's technology changes recommended the computer device come in the form of a laptop.

Idaho has started accepting bids for a contract to provide every high school student and teacher with a laptop or similar device.

The state is giving computer manufacturers until May 25 to submit their pitches, according to a request for proposals (RFP) issued by Idaho’s Division of Purchasing. The 85-page document was obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

Idaho is phasing in the laptops while also becoming the first state in the nation to require high school students to take at least two credits online to graduate. The changes were approved last year as part of a reform package authored by public schools chief Tom Luna.

A task force created to help implement Luna’s technology changes recommended the computer device come in the form of a laptop. That recommendation is mentioned, but not a requirement in the request for proposals sent out April 11.

The document includes a description of what should be in the device. The state Department of Education prefers it weigh 6 pounds or less, have at least a 12-inch screen, and be durable enough to withstand the occasional spill, according to the RFP.

The device also must have a physical keyboard, a requirement that falls in line with the findings of Luna’s task force. The group determined that computer tablets, such as iPads, work best in younger grades, while high school students do better with a fully functioning keyboard.

“The task force recommended the state deploy laptop devices to high school students, therefore, the goal of the RFP is to describe a laptop device, or similar devices that would best meet student needs,” said state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath.

Teachers will get the devices this fall along with training, while students will be included in 2013, with one-third of high schools added per year. Luna’s office estimates the first five years of the laptop program will cost roughly $60 million.

The proposals submitted by computer companies vying for Idaho’s contract will be reviewed by a committee made up of public employees, including officials from state agencies and school districts. The state also will conduct interviews with each applicant.

But the proposed deal comes with a caveat: The education laws face a test at the ballot box in November.

eSchool News Staff

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