Trading textbooks for technology

Students at South Callaway will be given iPads for schoolwork.

The South Callaway R-2 school district is trading textbooks for iPads this year, starting a transition to a possible paperless future.

Every student from kindergarten through 12th grade will get an iPad. The iPads will stay in the classrooms for kindergarten through second grade, and will go home with the older students.

The district is committed to paying $250,000 each year for four years. This number includes the cost of the devices themselves, protective gear and changes to the infrastructure of the building necessary to implement an iPad-based curriculum.

Superintendent Kevin Hillman said the number seems steep, but a lot of the money goes toward startup costs that are one-time expenses and won't need to be paid again in the future.

"[The district] will not see the cost go up dramatically from what you are already spending on textbooks once you have everything in place and moving. And yet the ability for so much more research and knowledge is so much more than what it was before," Hillman said.

He added that the district was paying around $40-$60,000 annually for textbooks. That money will be put toward the iPad costs.

Hillman said the school district had been planning to implement the iPads for years, so they were able to save up and fund the devices without a bond or levy.

The schools still have paper textbooks in the classroom right now as well.

To cover the cost of a lost or broken iPad, parents were given the option to buy into a district insurance pool for $40 per child, with a cap of $80 per household.

The insurance pool will cover one device per child per year.

Parents also had the option to seek independent insurance options or go without insurance at all and pay full cost if the iPad breaks.

Tucker Bartley is a South Callaway High School business teacher who took part in the iPad pilot program last year.

He said he saw a positive impact on the students.

"Eventually we're going to live in a world that is paperless so I think this gives our kids a great advantage. I think it will prepare them for the technology that they'll be having to deal with in college or in the workforce. I think that will put them ahead," Bartley said.

Both Hillman and Bartley emphasized that the iPad program is in its infancy and there are many kinks to work out before it's running perfectly smoothly.

Hillman said the administration will monitor student progress and performance in order to determine the next step once the current commitment expires.