St. Viator High School will open this year without one long-standing tradition: Book Day.
That's because nearly 98 percent of books for freshmen, sophomores and juniors will be downloaded -- at a fraction of the cost -- on the iPads they purchased this summer.
"The reduction in the cost of books is incredible," says Principal Eileen Manno. "The iPads will probably pay for themselves, in many instances, this year. I can't believe we got to this point so quickly, but we were committed to it -- and we did it."
While buying the iPad will be an additional expense for families, the devices will save money in the long run as textbooks are replaced with e-books at a fraction of the cost, school officials said. Cases of financial need are handled individually and discreetly, officials said.
Students are receiving their iPads at training sessions led this month by St. Viator information technology staff members and new instructional tech coordinator Maggie Miskowicz.
"We're introducing many of its applications during these sessions -- and how to download books," Miskowicz said. "But once school starts, I'll be holding more in-depth sessions with students and teachers."
She expects to help students adjust to iStudiez Pro apps and to help faculty members to integrate the iPad in the classroom.
At one of the recent iPad training sessions -- attendance required for students and at least one parent -- students learned how to create and organize their apps for different classes, how to store documents and spreadsheets, and how to keep a calendar of assignments.
"It was exciting just getting (the iPad)," said sophomore Tyler Landoch of Arlington Heights.
Incoming freshman Marian Madaras of Itasca pointed to another advantage: "Now, I won't have to carry around so many heavy books."
Sophomore Nicole Bonica of Mount Prospect says she knew most of the applications the training session covered, but her mother didn't.
"It was very informative for parents," said mom Colleen Bonica. "I'm glad they went slowly."
School administrators have blocked gaming and social media sites, and the school's network will monitor for inappropriate activities. Teachers also will go over Internet safety with students during homeroom in the opening weeks of school.
"I'm really getting excited," Manno said. "In my 40 years in education, I've never seen a change like this in the way students learn. It's groundbreaking."