Students may not have to wait for Idaho to roll out a statewide laptop program before they get their hands on a new computer.
Districts across the state are taking advantage of the $13 million lawmakers set aside in 2011 for technology upgrades in the classroom to purchase devices for students that include iPads, laptops, and desktop computers.
Idaho will eventually phase in laptops for every high school teacher and student while making online courses a requirement to graduate, under a plan that was crafted by public schools chief Tom Luna and signed into law last year.
But the $13 million included in this year's public schools budget is not part of the statewide laptop program. The funding is being sent to schools this year to help pay for things like Internet access,technology hardware and teacher training in preparation for the changes.
Many districts are, however, opting to spend the money on various types of computers for students in kindergarten through eighth grades, with hopes of better preparing them for the classrooms that await them once they enter high school.
A portion of the $13 million, about $4 million, has already been distributed to public schools this year. Districts submitted plans earlier this month to the state Department of Education detailing how they would spend the remaining $9 million.
In Craigmont, a former railroad town of about 500 in northern Idaho, the Highland School District plans to spend $5,500 to equip classrooms in kindergarten through fifth grade with iPads. The district plans to eventually transition students into using laptops once they advance onto middle school so they'll be comfortable with the devices later on in high school, where they'll need to complete at least two courses online to graduate.
The district has about 180 students in kindergarten through 12th grades in one school building, said Superintendent Cindy Orr.
"It's easier for us to do it this way, where everyone in the building gets one versus having to wait until they're in the ninth grade," Orr said.