Sharon Springs Central School students will have a surprise awaiting them when they head back in September:
IPad 3 computer tablets.
Beginning with the seniors and then, by mid-month, moving on to Grades 7-11, all 150 middle school and high school students and their teachers will have the iPads and wireless internet connections, thanks to grants and other funding put together by SSCS Business Manager Tony DiPace.
“Tony really took the lead on making this happen,” said Superintendent Pat Green.
“We’ve been working on this since January and are thrilled to see it pan out. We’ve had a longstanding commitment to technology at SSCS. This just brings us farther down that road.”
Mr. Green said the district had been looking at providing middle and high school students with laptops for four or five years, but decided it made more sense to leapfrog to the iPads.
“We liked the portability of it,” Mr. DiPace said, “and the apps that are becoming more available really open up the educational opportunities. Almost all of our textbooks will be available on the iPad.”
The $215,400 cost of the iPad project, which includes a 32-unit portable iPad lab for elementary students and staff, and durable “Otterbox” covers to protect the iPads, will be entirely paid for by: A $165,643 increase in BOCES state aid reimbursement, a $40,000 grant from State Senator Jim Seward, and $21,176 in aid from the Rural Education Action Program.
In addition, the district expects to tap into $25,529 in state textbook aid to purchase e-textbooks.
Mr. DiPace said the only recurring cost will be internet access through Verizon Wireless, about $13,860 annually.
The district is seeking E-rate funding to cover that.
“It really all comes down to equity,” Mr. Green said.
“How can we expect our students to achieve to their highest potential if they can’t take advantage of tools and opportunities like this? It levels the playing field for all of our students.”
The district has purchased insurance for the iPads to limit parent and student financial responsibility and every student will be required to sign an “acceptable use policy” before receiving their iPad.
The iPads will be outfitted with interactive writing, presentation, and math software, and even those with dial-up will be able to access the internet through built-in wireless connections; the district will be able to control the security settings.
Teachers have been getting optional training on the iPads over the summer; student training will follow in the fall.
Long-range, Mr. Green said SSCS would like to extend the project to the lower grades, adding one grade a year.
“It really has unlimited potential,” Mr. Green added. “This is a tool that has the power to transform our school.”