High school considers Chromebook for every student

The new policy change would ban the use of personal devices during school hours.

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. —Eunki Seonwoo

As early as next school year, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) could issue all of its students a Google Chromebook laptop and ban the use of personal devices during school hours.

The decision is intended to streamline troubleshooting during class time, bolster school cybersecurity, and prevent students from evading the school’s online content restrictions. 

School information technology (IT) director Rick Mello presented the idea to the committee on April 1, saying that the change would require no additional budget request. The school is already well on its way of giving each student the laptop; about two out of every three students currently have a Chromebook.

During the April meeting, some committee members fully supported the policy, while others wanted to see more details before giving their endorsement. Also, a student representative questioned if the policy could be staggered, so as not to waste the money of students who recently bought new computers.

One of the primary reasons for requiring the Chromebooks would be to cut down on technical problems in the middle of the school day. 

“Almost all device-related issues at MVRHS occur on BYOD [bring-your-own-device] devices,” Mello said. These issues include personal devices being out of date, spending class time helping students who have forgotten personal passwords, issues with wireless connection, and navigating parental controls. At the high school, Mello is charged with addressing these issues. 

“I’m forced to troubleshoot their personal devices in the heat of the moment when class is ongoing,” he said. “I’ve had a teacher kind of upset that they’re missing some class time. And sometimes I just don’t know what’s going on — It’s not my device; it’s configured in a way that’s just a mess. Yes, eventually I’ll solve it, but it could take 20 minutes, an hour, two hours, who knows?”

Mello was not the only one in favor of the change. Providing every student with a Chromebook, which the administration is calling a 1:1 policy, has been fully supported by the high school’s tech committee, which includes Principal Sara Dingledy, teachers, and staff. 

In a poll shared by Mello at the meeting, 66 of 66 teachers also supported a 1:1 policy. “We are trying to put the best educational environment in our classrooms, and I think this really helps the situation,” said teacher Melissa Braillard at the meeting.

The policy change could clamp down on students evading school restrictions. Students can currently use personal devices to evade the school’s online access restrictions. According to Mello, students can use widely available virtual private networks (VPNs) to appear as if they are accessing the internet from other countries, therefore hiding their internet activity and avoiding the school’s automatic restrictions. Students can also avoid filters by connecting to cellular hotspots provided by their phones. 

Chromebooks, however, can be made to follow a preapproved list of extensions and networks while in school.


Mello added that a 1:1 policy would help the school comply with the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act law, which it must do to continue to receive federal funds for internet access through the E-Rate program. “Part of being compliant for that is being able to sort of control your network,” Mello said.

According to Mello, the school currently has more than 500 Chromebooks for its 751 students, and over 300 of those computers are deployed to students.

Cybersecurity, says Mello, is another reason to switch, and one that keeps him up at night. “It’s not directly related to this, but Nantucket got hacked last year — ransomware,” he told the committee. Even though the high school sets aside a separate Wi-Fi network for student use, Mello says, there is a potential for security breaches when personal devices get involved. These include the spread of malicious apps and sensitive data among students. “They’re still in that pool with each other. And there are still potential risks,” Mello said.

Chromebooks, Mello said, come with their own cybersecurity safeguards. They update themselves automatically, and restrict any downloads within a browser to individual tabs.

Another reason given by Mello is that personal devices will no longer be judged as status symbols.

While addressing frequently asked questions during his presentation, Mello said that students will still be able to access personal emails and college application websites on school Chromebooks. He did say that the school’s automatic content restrictions sometimes block websites that they shouldn’t, but that teachers can contact him to unblock sites as needed. “If I know about it, I can address it,” Mello said.

Mello said the new computers can be paid for through a combination of existing budgetary funds and funding assistance through grants.

Mello added that Chromebooks have a six- to seven-year lifespan, and that each one the school currently owns is less than three years old. Chromebooks would be replaced in phases, to avoid needing all the devices to be replaced at the same time.

How to insure or account for lost or stolen Chromebooks also came up at the April 1 meeting. Other schools, Mello said, have paid for insurance policies for their Chromebooks, or have charged families a fee upfront.

When asked what would happen if a student broke their Chromebook, Mello replied that they would have to pay for it. “They get charged,” Mello said. “Same as a lost textbook, lost library materials, lost classroom materials.” The cost of a broken device, he added, is $246, plus a $30 nontransferable license fee.

Some committee members and attendees voiced concerns on students’ behalf. “What about the kids who literally take their notes by writing on a tablet?” asked committee member Mike Watts. “Is that going to be [an] option for them?” Mello replied that some Chromebooks do have touch screens, but that providing those devices for all students would be cost-prohibitive. “I’d be curious to know how many students do that [with tablets],” he added.

Student government member Jacoby Harris, present at the meeting, asked for current students’ personal devices to be grandfathered in, instead of prohibiting all personal devices next year. 

“Phase out personal devices, because then by the time current freshmen are done … we could have 1:1 personal computers. Because a lot of these computers and laptops can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500 … if I wasn’t able to use [my MacBook] for the next few years, it’s basically useless to me.”

Multiple committee members also supported communicating a 1:1 policy change in a letter to eighth graders, so they would be able to better plan any purchases of personal technology before starting at the high school.

Watts recommended that the 1:1 policy be brought to the all-Island school committee for further conversation.

Committee member Kathryn Shertzer also asked to see more detailed policy language before approving changes in the student handbook. “Personally, I want to see the language that I’m going to be asked for the approval of in September and October, before I say yes,” said Shertzer. Watts agreed.

Committee chair Robert Lionette fully supported the change at the meeting: “I’d be concerned about anything that’s going to put a wrench in this for another year … I cannot find a reason not to fully support this.”


  1. Policy changes need school committee input and approval. The school committee has every right to ask questions and see the wording of proposed changes to policy and the student handbook. Any attempts to make decisions without their input and three separate votes is another attempt by the administration to circumvent the authority of the school committee.

    • Does the School Committee make educational materials decisions? Text books?
      Does the administration have a history circumventing the authority of the school committee?

  2. This is a great idea. Every student should have access to a computer in this digital age. Not every family can afford one. Also, the ban on personal devices would eliminate a source of distraction from the classroom.

  3. I agree the idea of chrome books for appears to be a good idea but it needs to be vetted. Lots of good ideas don’t make it through the process for of all sorts of reasons. This is why there is a three readings approach to policy changes. It needs to go through the process even good ideas can have impacts not thoroughly thought about. This of course takes time so give it the time it needs. Honor past practices they work.

      • I recall my textbooks looked like they’d gone through three hundred readings before they were issued to me.

    • Janet, how many other schools have adopted this policy? How many years have other schools been doing it? This isn’t a novel idea that needs months of debate.

  4. Yes, yes & yes!!! My children’s school has done this since Covid. It has cut down on so much especially at a high school level. No personal devices. The content has control, the cybersecurity is secure. It’s not a social symbol on who has what. Everyone has a school issues Chromebook. The school offers third party insurance for $40 a year. We have had to trade in two chromebooks for issues and the kids get new ones from the school. Our school systems has all assignments through Google classroom. I can see what my children have done, haven’t done or are working on from my phone. It hold kids accountable for their work, it’s all in one place and honestly they will always need computer skills.

  5. A relative just took a job with Vineyard Wind. They issued him a desk top, a laptop and very capable cell phone. He is a boat driver. With out extensive computer skills he would not have been hired.
    The bridge controls and navigation equipment are computer based.
    Computers, reading, writing, arithmetic and computers.

  6. Can we ask students and educators to look up on Chromebook; “Does candy help brain work ?” Do Islanders know your principles present and retiring have been feeding your children candy before a test and telling them it’s good for their brain???
    We all understand that sugar is addictive leads to diabetes, alcoholism, drug use, and the dentist who uses fentanyl!! How about ,can we educate some of our educators to not tell children eating flower petals are good for them when the daffodils are in bloom daffodils are poisonous. I had a child. Tell me she’d been throwing up when we told her that daffodils were poisonous she said, could you tell my teacher she told me flower petals were OK to eat, the Chromebook might help the teacher as sugar does not make your brain work and many flower petals are poisonous !! I think it’s time to rewrite some things in the schools. What do you folks think about feeding your child candy before a test and telling them it’s good for their brain I find it shocking.

  7. Why is this even a debate? As stated above, this is a no-brainer. Kids need individual computers to do most of their work. Why would anyone need to debate this?

  8. I was required to use a Chromebook for a project I was involved in – I, and others in the group, really dislike the Chromebook. A good laptop – absolutely! Chromebook – no thanks, not even a free one!

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