One school district in Hoboken, New Jersey has decided to abandon its one-to-one laptop program for 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. Ultimately, the Hoboken School District decided the scheme was more trouble than it was worth—even when supported by federal grants.
"We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation," said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of the Hoboken School District, told The Hechinger Report. "It became unsustainable."
The district is now going through the process of identifying the remaining laptops and seeking a bid for their destruction. District officials did not immediately respond to an Ars request for comment (Ars has filed a public records request to learn more).
Jerry Crocamo, a district network engineer, told The Hechinger Report that despite his colleagues' best efforts to keep the laptops in perfect working order, there was an average of six new repair cases every day. The issues varied: cracked screens, dead batteries, malware infections, and more.
"We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do," said Crocamo. "I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed."
In addition to tough physical hardware, the district tried to plan in advance of software pitfalls. District officials attempted to block which websites students could access—in particular, pornographic sites—but the students figured out how to defeat that too. "There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer," said Crocamo.
Finally, because these laptops were designed to be used in conjunction with the high school's wireless network, the district claimed that it too got mucked up.
"A lot of people knew the username and password," Toback said. "So a lot of people were able to walk by the building and they would get wireless access. Over a period of years, you had thousands of people. It bogged it down, it made it unusable."