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updated: 4/29/2011 6:42 AM

Some Dist. 303 students to get iPads

School board committee OKs $1.2 million for technology upgrade

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The decision to turn Richmond and Davis Elementary schools into grade-level centers did not compute with all parents, but a school board committee made sure Thursday night the move will compute with students.

The Business Services Committee of the St. Charles Unit District 303 school board signed off on the purchase of 450 iPad 2 computer tablets for Richmond students and a whole new level of responsibility with them.

Richmond will be the building housing grades 3 through 5 in the grade level center plan. Equipping each student at the school with a computer they'd use throughout the school day and be able to take home was one of the flashier selling points of the district's plan.

District staff considered the Motorola Zune and the RM Slate PC as well, but a panel of teachers decided the iPad 2 had more educational firepower than the other two computers.

The iPad 2 is also cheaper than the other devices. Indeed, the district will totally embrace the iPad 2 with a total purchase of 1,420 of the devices. The computers will also appear in library resource centers and high school science classes.

All told, the district will spend about $1.2 million on a massive technology upgrade that will feature the new iPad 2 computers. A separate purchase will supply the education applications teachers plan to use on the computers.

Superintendent Don Schlomann said teachers will have extra monitoring duty because of the new devices. Students will also be held to a high behavior standard.

"A big downfall of all of these is, unlike a laptop, you cannot essentially monitor them," Schlomann said. "These are individual devices. We can restrict through the Internet where our kids can go, but can't have a master machine that can monitor what our kids are doing at all times. If a kid wants to download an app, and use their own iTunes account, they are going to be able to do that. Teachers are going to have to move through the classroom at all times to monitor what is going on."

Staff said the iPads will use the district's website filtering software to ensure students can't view any inappropriate websites either at school or when they bring the computers home.

The full school board must still approve the purchase. The vote will be significant as the board will commit big dollars to the grade-level center change even as a group of parents fights the district in court to undo the grade-level center plan.

Plan: 450 iPad 2s would be part of purchase