LEWISTON — After a good experience with freshmen using Chromebooks computers this year, the rest of students at Lewiston High School will get them next fall, pending a bond approval from the City Council.

“It’s a big step for Lewiston,” Superintendent Bill Webster said Monday.

More than half of Maine’s public high schools, including Edward Little High School in Auburn, provide students with computers.

The cost of buying 1,100 to 1,200 Chromebooks will be about $389,000, which would be paid by a city bond going to voters for approval in May, Webster said.

To see whether Chromebooks would be a good move, freshmen were given them this year, Webster said.

“The feedback from students and teachers has been very positive,” Principal Shawn Chabot said at Monday night’s School Committee meeting. “The plan is to deploy them to the whole building this fall.”

The School Department will pay between $250 to $300 for each laptop, which is a quarter to a third of the cost of the Apple computer, Webster said.

Chromebooks use Google applications, which fits well with the school’s and department’s computer system, Chabot said. When students write papers, “it saves things instantly,” he said. “Freshmen teachers have been very pleased.”

Compared to the Apple Mac, Chromebooks has limitations, Webster said. They’re not as powerful and have less storage space. But the price enables the city to provide computers to students. Chromebooks is a tool that will expose students to what they’ll need in college, he said.

Providing a Chromebook to each student “is going to help level the playing field of students who have technology at home and those who don’t,” Webster said.

All freshmen using Chromebooks this year have allowed teachers to use consistent techniques, Webster said. “Assignments can be turned in without use of paper, teachers monitor students work, and students are in a better position to take responsibility for their own work.”

Chabot praised freshmen, saying they’ve done a good job taking care of the laptops.

“There’s been a minimal amount of damage,” he said. 

There is one new position in the school budget, and two promotions, to support more students having computers and a restructuring of information technology in the School Department.

A new support specialist at the high school is proposed at a salary of $43,000 in the budget.

On Monday night, the School Committee supported promoting two tech support specialists because they’ll have broadened responsibilities. That added cost is $22,000 a year for the two promotions, Webster said. 

“So upgrading the educational opportunities for high school students does come with a yearly cost over and above the purchase” of computers, committee member Tom Shannon said at Monday night’s committee meeting.

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