School board approves handbook for school MacBook policies

The district announced specific details about the distribution and implementation of the laptops.


By Ben Wieland

District technology director Brandon Riffel gestures as he lays out the new MacBook handbook.

Ben Wieland, Mill Valley News editor in chief

The school board unanimously approved a MacBook Initiative Policies & Procedures Handbook for the distribution of MacBooks to all students grades six through 12 for the upcoming school year at a meeting Monday, July 15. The board also approved a $25 technology use fee for every student issued a MacBook, which will generate over $90,000 for the district to cover device repairs and tech support. 

According to district technology integration specialist Cindy Swartz, freshmen at the school will receive their MacBooks after freshman orientation on Wednesday, August 14 between 11:15 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Grades 10 through 12 will receive their MacBooks on their first day of school, Monday, August 19, between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. 

On those days, students will be called to the media center, sign in and be asked to sign the school’s Acceptable Use Policy. They will then receive their MacBooks. 

Students will be allowed and encouraged to personalize their laptops with stickers on the laptop case. District technology director Brandon Riffel explained during the board meeting that personalization makes keeping track of technology easier. 

“Students can put stickers over the top of the laptop,” Riffel said. “Some districts actually ask that high schoolers personalize their laptops to make them easier to identify.”

Swartz said that students should expect to use their MacBooks nearly every day and during almost every block. The applications students should expect to use most frequently include web browsers Safari and Google Chrome, file storage and sharing software Microsoft Office 365, online textbooks and Canvas, a learning management platform that will replace previously used programs like Blackboard and Google Classroom. 

According to the handbook, students will not be allowed to install their own apps onto their MacBooks. Internet access will also be filtered by Securly at all times, even when students are using their laptops outside of school. 

To handle the inevitable tech support challenges that come with giving every middle and high school student a laptop, the school has created a student tech support team. Riffel thinks this will encourage students to take better care of their devices. 

“Districts have seen that over time – after they implement a student tech support team – damage to devices becomes less frequent because students are holding each other responsible,” Riffel said. 

The district plans to implement a program giving students the option to keep their laptops over summer break; Riffel expects this program to make students feel more attached to their devices. 

“We want students to keep the laptops year round,” Riffel said. “Students will have more ownership of their devices – they won’t destroy them and just expect to get a better one next year.”

Superintendent Frank Harwood said at the meeting that the newly purchased laptops are leased for four years, so all high school students receiving devices this year can expect to keep their devices until they graduate. 

For parents with more questions about how implementation of MacBooks at the school will be carried out, Riffel will lead a technology night in the school’s theater Thursday, August 29 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

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