The whole plan is up for a possible voter repeal in November, under Propositions 1, 2, and 3 on the Idaho ballot, with Proposition 3 including the laptops and online learning. A yes vote on the propositions would keep the laws; a no vote would repeal them.
Three companies responded to Idaho’s original request for proposals in June, but one was late and one placed conditions on its bid, which was specifically prohibited. “So we had only one true responder, so there was a lack of competition,” Burns said. “So I canceled the bid, and we opened it up to negotiation.”
All three of the original firms have been among those in discussions with the state; the bidders aren’t being identified. But when the state held public meetings about the potential deal last spring, companies represented included Apple, Lenovo, Education Networks of America, and telecom giant CenturyLink. Bids could come from groups of companies because of the wide-ranging requirements of the contract.
According to the 79-page request for proposals, the contract would be renewable for up to 16 years. It would include supplying laptops the first year for 6,551 teachers, principals, counselors, media specialists, and technical directors in Idaho high schools. All ninth- through 12th-grade students would get the machines over the following three years.
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The contractor also would be responsible for setting up and maintaining wireless networks in every Idaho high school using the broadband connection already supplied to the schools by the Idaho Education Network.
The computers would have to run on a battery throughout the school day and recharge overnight; and when batteries stop lasting all day, they’d have to be replaced immediately. The vendor would be responsible for technical support, some training, software, networking issues, and ensuring that every student always has access to a working device.
Asked how a single company could accomplish that in a far-flung state like Idaho, where many high schools are in remote and rural areas, Burns said with a chuckle, “Welcome to our world.” But, he added, “there’s lots of different ways and lots of different proposals. There’s lots of different ways these folks are going to accomplish that—it’ll be done, I can say that.”
(c) 2012, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.). Visit The Spokesman-Review online at www.spokesman.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
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