Accelerating the move to Chrome at Coronado Unified School District
The Coronado Unified School District, located in San Diego County, California, serves approximately 3,100 students across two high schools, two elementary schools, and a middle school. Four of those are California Distinguished Schools; two are National Blue Ribbon Schools. 90% of the district’s students go on to college.
Due to its low free and reduced lunch rates, however, CUSD doesn’t qualify for most of the technology funding, such as Title I, that California provides to other districts throughout the state. In the absence of that funding, Coronado has found other, innovative ways to save money while striving for excellence.
A device-agnostic strategy
“Our strategy has been to be device agnostic—so, to identify software systems and learning programs that can be run on any platform,” said Ramona Loiselle, Director of Technology for CUSD. “And the ultimate goal is to move to Chrome devices because of their expense, sturdiness, speed, and ease of deployment.”
Loiselle explained that due to a lack of funding, Coronado isn’t pursuing a standard one-to-one device initiative. Instead, the district implemented a Bring Your Own Device policy, in which students in grades 3-12 sign up to bring their own devices to school.
“Our sites have carts of devices that are used as backfill for students who don’t want to bring devices, whose devices are broken, who don’t have devices—and for testing, because we can’t do testing on student-owned devices,” Loiselle said. “So we have one-to-one in the sense that on every campus, we have a device of some kind for any student to use at any given time.”
Most recently, one of the challenges the district faced was the refresh rate of those computers. The primary factors in deciding whether to refresh the devices were expense and time, as the district’s technology group was working to get systems managed remotely to increase efficiencies, particularly with regard to testing.
“We had a lot of netbooks we were going to have to replace, which would been about $200,000. Our superintendent came back from a conference and said, ‘You’ve got to look at [CloudReady]'”
“We had a lot of netbooks we were going to have to replace, which would been about $200,000,” Loiselle said. “Our superintendent came back from a conference and said, ‘You’ve got to look at [CloudReady].’”
Implementing cost-effective efficiency
According to Loiselle, CUSD saved about $180,000 by choosing to use CloudReady to convert their existing computers instead of purchasing new hardware.
Aside from the cost savings, the district also saw a resulting increase in efficiency when it came to preparation for testing. “When we had PCs in the hands of students, it would take us about 8 weeks to get ready: 8 weeks, all day, all of us,” Loiselle said. “Right now we’ve got testing going on, and it’s just one person for about a half hour each day getting the Chrome devices set up.”
The transition to CloudReady was simplified by the fact that CUSD was already familiar with Chrome. “We had been trialing Chromebases as replacements for student desktops. We had also trialed Chromebooks as replacements for netbooks,” Loiselle said. “When we shifted to CloudReady in our labs...the students already knew how to use it, so it didn’t really matter that the teachers didn’t, because the kids could log on and then they’d just show the teachers.”
“When we had PCs in the hands of students, it would take us about 8 weeks to get ready: 8 weeks, all day, all of us. Right now we’ve got testing going on, and it’s just one person for about a half hour each day getting the Chrome devices set up.”
Loiselle continued, “We did training, but because we were already using Chromebooks, the switch to CloudReady was not an issue. To go to CloudReady would be no different than the process of going to Chromebooks.”
Student involvement with the technical side of CloudReady doesn’t end there. Charles Coburn, a computer technician for CUSD, works with students from the district’s middle school, which offers a tech squad for kids. Coburn has trained the students how to convert older machines to CloudReady.
“One of our hopes long term is that we can offer a community support service where people can bring in older computers from home and we can install the free CloudReady Home version for them as a help process,” Loiselle said. “I’ve already done that for a couple of families that have devices at home that are so old that they don’t work.”
For now, though, Loiselle and her CUSD technology team are focused on the much-needed efficiency and productivity gains they’ve seen with using CloudReady.
“When we get a device that dies, it’s just much simpler,” Loiselle said. “The turnaround in efficiency and IT to support students and staff using Chromebooks and CloudReady is so much faster. We take the device away from them, give them a different one, fix the one that was messed up, and stick that on a shelf so it’s ready to go out again when someone else has a problem. That’s a 2-hour turnaround versus a 3-day turnaround, and when you’re in education, that’s a big deal.”
Anticipating future challenges
In planning for the future, Loiselle anticipates that consumption of streaming video and audio content will only increase, bringing with it new concerns.
“We have to take our monies and put them into things like Wi-Fi and network speed and take them out of things like computers,” Loiselle said. “That’s why something like CloudReady is important—it lets us use a software suite that’s free, lets us pare down what we’re managing, and lets us have a small staff. We have to be efficient and we have to find ways to be very, very fast because the students can’t go without access at any time.”
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