Are iPads in the Classroom Worth It?

Initiative will cost $4 million per year

Sweetwater seventh graders may be spoiled rotten, but they may actually be saving their district money in the long-run.

The Sweetwater Union High School District approved an initiative Wednesday that will provide its seventh graders with iPads.

The iPads -- which cost about $500 a pop -- may actually not cost the district much more than it would be paying otherwise for text books.

The seventh graders carry anywhere from $300 to $500 worth of books with them each year, according to Lillian Leopold, a spokeswoman for the district.The books are re-used, but need to be updated within several years.

The books for each subject are usually adopted about every seven years, but lately state funding has been lagging for the purchases.

However, Leopold said, these adoptions usually cost about $7 million just for one subject. She believes the cost of the iPads is comparable to the cost of buying and maintaining text books.

The iPad initiative will cost the district about $4 million per year.

The district plans to fund the iPads in part through funding from Proposition O, which was passed in 2006 and provides support for technology purchases. That measure will account for $1.8 million of the expenses, Leopold said.

Mello Roos tax money will provide $1.5 million, A Qualified Zone Academy Bond will provide half a million dollars.

The remaining half a million dollars will come from lottery funds.  All this money is accounted for, Leopold said.

In addition to the potential cost effectiveness, the iPads will quell many parents' concerns about the physical weight of text books.

"We were hearing major outcry from parents saying their kids were getting scoliosis with 15 or 20 pounds of books on their backs," Leopold said.

The iPads will be given to seventh graders beginning in July 2012. The devices will include access to electronic versions of text books and learning tools. 

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