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Delivery too late for public school seniors

By Moneth Deposa SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 8, 2010) – Over 600 seniors who were supposed to get one laptop each under the Public School System's One Laptop Per Child Project will be graduating from high school without benefiting from the program.

This came about because the 5,200 laptops that were ordered for the program won't be delivered until after the graduation of the seniors' class, said PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh.

"They [laptops] haven't arrived yet so that would be for next school year. The hope was to have it for them this school year.but there was an issue in the bidding that we needed to address first," Thornburgh told Saipan Tribune yesterday. He said the issue has already been settled.

Thornburgh admitted that if not for the bid protest, the manufacture and delivery of the laptops would have come earlier.

"They're still being manufactured and they will be coming well after graduation and will be available for the students next school year," he said, adding that the project covers all junior and high school students of PSS.

Of the over 5,000 laptops, some 500 will go to private schools.

The over $1 million funding for this project was sourced from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

Some senior students who were interviewed by Saipan Tribune yesterday expressed surprise upon learning that they won't be getting their laptops this school year. Some expressed disappointment, saying they were expecting the laptops as promised them by the commissioner earlier this year. Others said they don't have any choice but to understand the situation.

Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan was in a meeting yesterday and did not return Saipan Tribune's call.

Public high school principals admitted yesterday that they learned about the non-issuance of the laptops this year during the principals' meeting.

Kagman High School principal Alfred Ada said that, although he has yet to formally inform his seniors about the matter, some students who have inquired with his office have already been told about it.

"Not officially, but when they inquired.I told them about it," said Ada.

Ada believes that even without the laptops for middle and high school students, PSS will still be successful in providing effective technology learning because it's the teacher's instructional strategies that were the original plan.

Laptop issuance, he said, is part of "Plan B" for technology learning.

Kagman High School has 184 seniors.

"We're talking about thousands of laptops and I don't think it's going to happen this year. But we're anticipating these in next school year," Ada said.

Tinian Junior and High School principal Julian Hofschneider also admitted knowing about the new development but said his students were only told that they "might" have the laptops this year. His school has 52 seniors.

"Nobody was really expecting it this year.because I just told them before that we might have it," he added.

Saipan Southern High School principal Craig Garrison, for his part, said that he was not privy to the decisions of PSS on the laptop project.

"I was not aware. I was not privy to any permanent decision as to what occured and as a result, I am surprised and somewhat disappointed because these have been promised for a long time by the commissioner herself to the students," Garrison said.

"This time, I believe I have to inform all of them [students] formally so that they can plan accordingly and figure out how they can continue their education," he added. SSHS has 118 seniors this year.

Saipan Tribune learned that next school year, all 1,200 students of Marianas High School will be provided personal laptops, along with 800 students in Kagman High School, 805 in Saipan Southern High School, 225 on Tinian, and 173 at Rota High School. Chacha, Hopwood, Tinian and Rota Junior High Schools will have about 2,000 laptops under the project.

Over 500 are allocated for private high school students.

Besides the laptops, PSS is investing in e-books, or electronic books for students' easy access to materials.

PSS said the need for students to have reliable access to computers and technology is provided for under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Laptops, PSS said, are virtually a disposable technology, with new and innovative communication devices handing all aspects of data, planning, scheduling and the ability to produce multimedia presentations, projects, and proposals.

Through the laptop project, PSS expects students to exhibit an 80-percent increase in vocabulary through the use of software technology and a marked 3- to 5-point increase in their GPA as the success they achieve in the program will transfer to all academic areas.

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