Hardware survivorship rates among USD 443's iPad fleet brings joy to district leadership.

Even with breakage rates far below other school districts' experiences with classroom tablet computers, USD 443 is applying lessons from the first year of full deployment to lower the expected damage rate further.

Of the 6,915 Apple iPad tablets distributed for use in classrooms, 4.7 percent were damaged during the school year. The school district expected to be closer to a more standard rate of loss of 8 percent to 10 percent.

"To say we were pleased is an understatement," Superintendent Alan Cunningham said. "Our kids have been really good stewards of these devices." 

The majority of damaged devices were due to cracked screens and the average repair cost was $99. Of the damaged iPads, 20 were a total loss requiring the replacement of the device. Of those, 11 were covered under the available insurance plan and the costs of five were reimbursed by the families, Cunningham said. The rest are awaiting action by the families, and some of those may be covered by the insurance policy.

Breakage rates in the elementary and middle schools, where students leave the devices in the classroom, were significantly lower than in Dodge City High School. The older students can take the devices home.

Dodge City Middle School was also a bit of an outlier with a breakage rate below 4 percent, compared to Comanche Middle School with a breakage rate of below 2 percent. Investigation by the district pointed to a simple conclusion for the discrepancy: Comanche's carpeted floors softened drops.

To continue the physics lesson, across the more than 3,000 tablet computers in the elementary schools, three were broken, Cunningham reported.

Again, a simple conclusion: shorter children make shorter drops and the elementary school iPads had beefier cases.

Next year, the district is going to invest in different cases for the rest of the tablets to change that variable in the equation.

Another lesson learned was that 760 district families spent roughly $32,000 on insurance premiums, less than the total cost of breakages. The district staff is running the numbers to determine if the district should cut out the third-party insurer and manage it in-house, saving district labor-hours in dealing with claims handling and passing on the savings to families.

The district would also like to establish a relationship with a local repairer. Under the contract with Apple, repair services have to be done at an Apple authorized agent. Repair shops are eager for the business, but a local servicer could help lower costs and increase responsiveness when an iPad takes a drop and a sudden stop.

In total, the district invested about $3.1 million in the devices, training, cases and other expenditures related to the switch. At the three year mark, even with higher breakage rates, the switch from textbooks to tablets will provide a return on the investment, in strictly financial terms.

"At this point, a physics text book can cost you $200," Cunningham said. Before the iPads, the district replaced a subject a year, generally, to cycle the library about once every six years. In tight budget years, that had been pushed to a seven-year cycle. In comparison, each new 16-gigabyte iPad was $379.

"They had more money in their backpacks with textbooks than they do with iPads," Cunningham said.

Students that totaled the devices this year were expected to pay back the cost, though the district staff may soon recommend pro-rated replacement rates in line with the cost to the school system.

At the three year mark, the district will evaluate whether it is time to upgrade the fleet to meet software demands.

"As long as the tool will deliver the content we need, there's no need to replace the tool," Cunningham said.