The days of kids lugging 50 pound backpacks full of textbooks to school might be numbered on Mercer Island. The students are getting iPads. (AP Photo/file)

iPads for all on Mercer Island schools this fall

The days of kids lugging 50 pound backpacks full of textbooks to school might be numbered on Mercer Island. The students are getting iPads.

Starting next month, every tenth and eleventh grade student will be issued an iPad to carry to and from school.

Mercer Island High School Principal Vicki Puckett said it's part of the district's effort to increase the use of technology. "I feel like Mercer Island is moving ahead on getting our students to be able to be ahead of the game."

School district technology manager Andreeves Ronser said the district will install management software to control applications that are used on the tablet computers.

"And that also gives us the ability then to be notified if they remove our management solution; if they install inappropriate applications, we would get a notification of that."

The iPad2 will come with a cover and charger. Parents will pay a small fee to insure against damage. Kids will turn in the iPads at the end of the year.

The district has been testing the iPads in the classroom for two years.

"Students, of course, love it because it's highly interactive for them as opposed to 'sit and get' traditional style of instruction," said Puckett. She admits that not everybody is on board. "As with any new program, we have some folks who are like 'Why are we wasting resources on this? Resources are tight.'" A voter-approved technology levy in 2010 paid for the iPads, which are expected to last five to six years.

For years, Puckett said teachers have banished cell phones and other devices as a classroom distraction. Now, they're embracing technology.

"They're saying 'This is a time you can get on your phone and you can enter all your homework assignments' or 'Hey, does everybody have a technology device? Let's get them out, let's find out what going on in this country, right now,'" said Puckett.

The iPads could eventually replace textbooks but for now, the costs are prohibitive because of license agreements. In the fall, every student in eighth grade through twelfth grade in the Mercer Island schools will have an iPad.

Tim Haeck, KIRO Radio Reporter
Tim Haeck is a news reporter with KIRO Radio. While Tim is one of our go-to, no-nonsense reporters, he also has a sensationally dry sense of humor and it will surprise some to learn he is a weekend warrior.
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