By Jean Lotus
Oak Park Elementary School District 97 is still working with Oak Park police to investigate the summertime theft of 47 brand new iPad mini tablets from the D97 administration building, said Director of Policy, Planning and Communications Chris Jasculca.
The devices-- still in their boxes-- were removed from a second floor room used to store the district's computer servers, Jasculca said. The room is left open daily and staff enter and exit freely, he said. The equipment was not secured or locked in any kind of equipment closet, he said.
The theft took place sometime between June 25-Aug. 29, according to police. The devices had not been "imaged" or formatted, Jasculca said, so the district was not able to activate the built-in GPS locators on the tablets to help find their locations. Estimated loss was $14,523, he said.
"We're fairly confident this loss is covered by insurance," Jasculca said. "The devices will all be replaced."
The devices were purchased with federal Title 1 funds and designated to be used by teachers and students participating in the Title 1 program, which serves low-income children.
These tablets were not intended for the 1:1 technology initiative approved by the D97 school board Aug. 20.
"We haven't ordered that equipment yet," Jasculca said.
The district was "incredibly dismayed and disappointed that someone made the conscious decision to put their own needs ahead of those of our students," a statement from the district said.
"We will not let [the theft] derail the comprehensive technology plan we put in place three years ago to ensure that our students have access to the resources that will help them learn, grown and achieve," the statement said.
As a result of the theft, the staff overhauled some of the protocols and procedures for storing and keeping track of equipment, the statement said.
Jasculca said the district still plans to roll out the 1:1 iPad technology initiative for students in D97 after the turn of the year. The program was delayed so the district could analyze community feedback concerning the risk of theft and damage of the tablets if they were issued to students to take home.
"We need to consider students' safety walking to and from school, and also cover the insurance aspects if the tablets are lost or damaged or destroyed," Jasculca said. "We have listened to feedback from the community regarding the children taking the devices home."
Although Oak Park police have been assisting with the investigation since Sept. 5, the incident was officially declared a theft in early October. Local news sources were not alerted to the theft because the daily media summary for Oct. 4 was inadvertently not sent, said Oak Park Commander LaDon Reynolds.