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Nevis continues to pursue tablet computers

Nevis School District voters proved to be skeptical of launching students into the digital age via one-on-one computers, but support is strong among administrative staff, board members and teachers who've experienced "the possibilities."

Special education instructor Leslie Sagen arrived with news she has received a grant for the purchase of two iPads, demonstrating the iPad's ability to help one of her students with communication skills.

"The things you can do with them are unbounded," principal John Strom said of the 500,000 applications available. "Whatever you want, it's there."

Little Falls students recently receiving iPads use 119 applications, he said, nine of which are paid. A $2,000 insurance rider covers the district for loss and damage.

Strom reported superintendent Steve Rassier has considered what's being spent on textbooks, compared with iPads. (Rassier accompanied students on their trip to Germany and was not at the meeting.)

"It's not necessarily dead," Strom said of instructional devices purchase.

The district can borrow interest free and lease for three years, he said. "With board and public support, the money could be found within the budget," Strom said.

Board chair Ed Becker suggested presentations on the iPad's capabilities.

Gary Stennes proposed a teacher use the device in the classroom. The presumable excitement to follow will energize the initiative, he said.

Jeannette Dudley recommended forming a committee to explore grant opportunities.

"If we wait for someone else to pay for it, it will take forever and a lifetime," Becker told her.

"It should be a process," Dudley said. "We should take steps.'

"Those who've done it will attest it's the biggest and best move they've done," Becker said. "We should talk about rearranging the budget, instead of going to taxpayers."

"Look at the big picture," Strom said. "Ten years ago, the goal was one computer in every classroom. Then it was laptops, SMART Boards. Now it's tablet computers."

"There's no plan," Andy Lindow said. "The public wants more information."

The "most convincing" way to communicate this would be a "pilot program with an eager teacher," Stennes said. "If we'd had a pilot program in place, the levy would have passed."

"I see it as such a huge benefit," Becker said.

"What's the end goal?" Lindow asked.

"Marked improvement in student learning," Becker said.

"The top 10 percent will learn via any method," Strom said. "It's the lower achievers, the not-so-goal-directed kids who may need to catch the wave. Maybe this is one of the ways."

The board agreed to invite representatives from schools using the technology to share their stories.

In other action, the board:

n Approved Shelly Mahowald as one-act play director and Savannah Stenberg as junior high girls basketball coach.

n Accepted a donation of $1,500 from the Nevin N. Huested Foundation for the purchase of the two iPads for Sagen's special education classroom.

n Tabled the truth in taxation meeting until 6 p.m. Dec. 19, the regular board meeting to follow.