The four iPads displayed on the Sharon Springs Central School District’s auditorium stage Thursday night were just a small fraction of the 150 that will be placed in the eager hands of students in the coming days.
Starting at 9 a.m. today, iPads will be handed out to every Sharon Springs student in grades 7-12, and roughly 50 parents and students filed in Thursday to get some in-depth information on the initiative.
“I think this is a great opportunity for students,” said Brielle Wilday, 16, a Sharon Springs junior. “Right now, we just have a few computer labs. All our books will be in these iPads and we’ll be able to email our teachers’ assignments directly, if we can figure it out.”
Wilday, like the rest of her peers, is excited to get the use of some hip new technology, but she’s also looking forward to the upgrade for more logistical reasons.
“I was running and tripped over someone’s leg, and mine just broke in three places,” she said, motioning to the heavy cast on her leg. “It’s not even a cool story.”
Wilday will be starting school on crutches and said the slim iPad will diminish the weight of her backpack, and thus the pain in her leg.
“We strive every day in the state Capitol to give students of rural schools like Sharon Springs every opportunity to learn,” said state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, “and technology is very important in that.”
The iPad initiative was paid for by Capital Region BOCES, along with a $40,000 grant secured by Seward, which is why he was in attendance.
Several school officials also spoke briefly before opening the floor to questions. While the students might have been purely excited, their parents had some questions.
Each tablet will be equipped with a Verizon Wireless Internet package. As district Superintendent Pat Green pointed out, half of his students don’t have Internet at home.
“What if cell service isn’t good at the house?” asked Perry Hewett, whose two children attend Sharon Springs, “Will the Internet connection also be spotty?”
Green assured him that while a spotty cell connection would mean spotty Internet, Verizon does cover 95 percent of the area.
Another common question was what functions such as social media and music storage will be allowed through the filtering system installed on the iPads.
“We’ve done some soul searching on this one,” Green said.
Hewett, for example, didn’t think any social media should be allowed, while Green said he could see the argument for tasteful use of Facebook and iTunes.
As for the common worry that kids will break the tablets, each one comes in a rather industrial-looking plastic case.
“It’s supposed to be the kind where you can drop it and it will be fine,” said school Business Manager Tony DiPace, adding that they worked with Apple to get a mass insurance policy to cover some inevitable breaks.
“It’s important to remember these tablets are school property,” Green said, “and we can reposess that property if a student does not treat it with the respect it deserves.”
Apple and Verizon representatives will be available to teach the first wave of students how to work the new devices.