Students in the Tomah Area School District were forced to turn in their laptops too early, the Tomah School Board was told Monday.

A parent told board members during a special meeting that students had to return their school-issued Chromebooks before they had a chance to complete their assignments. The final day of classes isn’t until today (Thursday), but students were asked to return their laptops as early as last week.

Ray Peterson said “students have done everything on Chromebooks online” and were spending evenings in the high school library waiting to access a limited number of computers so they can finish assignments.

“Students have not been given the proper equipment to do what they need to do in the last week-and-a-half of school,” Peterson said.

Board member Nancy McCoy confirmed Peterson’s account.

“I’m experiencing it as a parent just like you are,” McCoy said.

McCoy noted it’s the first year that students were assigned the Chromebooks and said, “I’m sure next year we’ll have a better solution.”

Superintendent Cindy Zahrte said the district collected the laptops to get a head start on wiping them clean before the school year ended.

“Obviously we need a new plan for next year,” Zahrte said.

The board also heard requests from Tomah High School students Shelby Foss and Clara Krause on a pair of technology matters. They asked the board to authorize a Snapchat account for the student council and ID cards for students.

They said the Snapchat account would be useful in publicizing school events to the student body.

McCoy said Snapchat is widely used among high school students and described it as “the young person’s Facebook.”

Board president Brian Hennessey said he appreciated the students asking permission from the board but wasn’t sure it was necessary. He said other student groups maintain Facebook pages that operate outside the supervision of the school.

“You have our blessing even though there is no official approval,” Hennessey said.

Foss and Krause said student IDs with bar codes can be useful in regulating admission to sporting events and dances. They said students are open to the idea of carrying an ID card at all times.

Zahrte said there is an expense to creating and maintaining bar codes and that the administration wants to know the cost before making a recommendation to the board.

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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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