Camden Hills laptop repair bills down from $56,000 to $33,000

Posted July 26, 2012, at 3:56 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — The laptop repair bill is in for Camden Hills Regional High School and the total is $33,000. That’s down from $56,000 in the 2010-2011 school year.

The school took measures in the past school year to reduce student carelessness, which administrators said was the root cause of so many repair bills on the state-issued Apple laptops.

Comparatively, Rockland’s high school spends about $5,500 per year on laptop repairs.

But the number from Camden Hills Regional High is a bit deceiving, said Cathy Murphy, business manager of the Camden-area school district. Each student at Camden Hills pays into a laptop repair account. The school took $28,000 from that account to reduce the $33,000 bill this year.

“So the cost to the district was $5,000,” Murphy wrote in an email.

The year before, the district paid about $20,000 of the $56,000 in bills.

None of those costs include the repairs covered by Apple’s warranty or money paid by students for intentional damage.

New Superintendent Elaine Nutter credited the plummet in repair costs to a new plan by the district. Students were educated about how to care for their laptops and teachers were asked to monitor use and reprimand carelessness. And in part because of the number of repairs, students whose computers broke had to wait a while before getting a new one.

“Students just thought if the laptop was damaged they’d get another one — they weren’t thinking about the effect of that. They realized there was a consequence,” Nutter said.

The school also collected laptops before school vacations so they could be checked for any damage. That, Nutter said, caught small problems that if gone unfixed could have become larger, more expensive problems.

When the district got the laptop repair bill last school year, administrators said the costs might jeopardize the program. Nutter said the school plans to go forward with the laptop program and it’s no longer in jeopardy, but if there are too many laptops broken at any one time students will have to wait a while before they get their computers back.

Although student carelessness contributed to the amount of repairs last year, Nutter said part of the problem is also that the computers are getting older.

“We are in the last year of this laptop generation. The laptops are aging. We recognize the logistics of having older laptops,” she said.

The school is one of 69 statewide that participate in a Maine Learning Technology Initiative program under the Maine Department of Education that makes laptops available to high school students.

Camden Hills spends about $150,000 to lease 778 laptop computers each year from the state.

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