The Omaha Public Schools board has approved the purchase of about 54,400 iPads for all OPS students.
The board members met via their electronic devices Monday and voted 8-0 to approve the $27.6 million purchase. That cost includes the iPads, which have cellular data capability, and cases.
The purchase will largely be funded by the federal coronavirus relief bill, known as the CARES Act. OPS expects to receive $20 million to $24 million in federal money. OPS will pay the remainder.
OPS Superintendent Cheryl Logan said the purchase is necessary to support students in a 21st century learning environment and to minimize disruption to education, given the potential for the coronavirus outbreak continuing into the fall. There is a “high probability,” she said, that the district will operate online and in classes in the fall.
Since physical schools closed in March, slow Wi-Fi or limited to no access to technology has made it difficult or impossible for some students to do schoolwork.
Bryan Dunne, executive director of information management services for OPS, said the iPads will be district-issued and managed, including apps and content.
IPads were selected over other devices or laptops because the district already uses them, they have cellular data capability and they were cheaper than other options, Dunne said. District officials also said they are at the mercy of the supply chain and had to make sure they could get the devices in time for school.
The plan approved by the board comes with a three-year warranty covering service and repairs. The district now will seek bids for cellular service for the iPads.
School board President Marque Snow asked about additional keyboards for the iPads beyond what’s embedded in the devices.
Dunne said that there was an option to buy iPad cases with keyboards but that supply chain problems prevented the district from going that route. He said it’s an issue the district will continue to explore.
Board member Lou Ann Goding asked about making such a large technology purchase at one time and whether that means all iPads will need to be replaced at the same time.
Dunne said OPS still has iPads from 2011 that are in use.
“So we know there’s some durability,” Dunne said.