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MARICOPA — Maricopa Wells Middle School is getting some new tech for the new semester, all thanks to a grant it received from the Ak-Chin Indian Community at the end of 2019.

It was the only school in the district to receive such a grant, and the money will fund new Chromebook laptops for all of the approximately 920 students currently at the school, bringing the ratio to one laptop for each student.

“That will enable us to take care of the stuff we have like our state testing, which is all online, which is going to be a huge benefit for our school,” said Maricopa Wells Principal Thad Miller. “Then also the last couple years, the district has implemented online math and language arts curriculums. So that’s just going to make it more accessible for them to use those curriculums on a regular basis. It’s gonna be awesome.”

Desert Wind Middle School will also be able to initiate a 1:1 ratio for laptops in the upcoming year, thanks to four different funding programs including Title I, Title III, 21st Century Grant and capital funding.

School administration and teachers are beginning their pilot program with students at the start of the spring semester, but there will be a trial period where students are taught expectations of how to handle the new and fragile technology.

Students will need to agree to keep their laptops with them at all times while on school grounds, to not loan the laptop to other students, to keep food/beverages away from the laptop and to not deface it in any way — i.e. stickers, markers — among other rules.

The students will also be given protective cases to help stop damage from occurring. At the end of every school day, students will be required to charge the laptops overnight and will not be taking the laptops home.

The online programs that have already been in place will continue, but Miller believes that the students do not need to take the laptops home at the end of the day.

“Yes, there is some work they can do at home but, of course, if they don’t have access, different occasions are made where they can either use hard copies or there are workbooks still accessible,” Miller said. “Just because we’re getting these laptops now doesn’t mean the curriculum is changing. It’s going to be the same curriculum we’ve had the last two years.”

Maricopa Wells, MUSD and Ak-Chin agreed not to name the dollar amount given by Ak-Chin, but MUSD spokeswoman Mishell Terry voiced her thankfulness for the generosity over email.

“The grant is a result of a wonderful partnership shared between the Ak-Chin Community and our schools,” Terry wrote. “Although the new computers provided by the grant will be used exclusively on the Maricopa Wells Middle School campus, a gift of this magnitude impacts the entire district by affording us the opportunity to redistribute existing devices to other campuses so that other students may use them. Technology in the classroom improves student engagement and collaboration, and also makes it easier for teachers to track progress and provide individualized assistance to help students meet their academic goals.”

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Katie Sawyer covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at ksawyer@pinalcentral.com.

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