Students at one Santa Fe elementary school will soon share about 250 iPads as the school district takes a first step toward launching a $55 million plan to provide each of its 14,000 students with a digital device over the next five years.
The district is contracting with Apple Inc. and Pearson PLC, an educational services company that provides a curriculum on the devices. It's also working with IT Connect Inc., a local company that will provide the hardware, software and other support.
The district plans to implement the technological infrastructure needed to use the iPads at a gradual pace of six or seven schools per year, The New Mexican reported Monday (http://bit.ly/W3sYAJ ).
Some students at Ramirez Thomas Elementary will get the devices next week.
Principal Vanessa Romero said it's great to see kids read books online and use iPads for research.
"Everyone here is very savvy with technology, (and) our school culture is collaborative, so this makes sense," she said.
The school board voted 3-2 earlier this year to impose an additional property tax to raise the money needed for the program.
The previous principal at Ramirez Thomas Elementary had used some federal funding aimed at improving schools to buy a few iPads for students a couple of years ago. Fifth-grade teacher Tim Abeyta has been working with them in his classroom and says his students use them to read, look up words, take quizzes and download math problems.
"It has increased engagement with the kids," he said.
The school board is still talking about what grade levels are most appropriate to start using the devices. Teachers will also receive training from contracted digital coaches on how to use the devices in classrooms.
Carl Gruenler, the district's chief financial officer, said the new technology is necessary for the district to adapt to new standardized tests through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, which is part of the new Common Core State Standards that New Mexico and other states are adopting.