BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) - The Baldwin County School Board voted Thursday, August 29, on a $4 million expansion to its "digital renaissance.”
This digital expansion means that every Baldwin County child from kindergarten and up will have access to up-to-date technology.
Even 5-year-olds will have iPads to learn language and math skills.
After more than 30 minutes of deliberations, the Baldwin County School Board passed the expansion initiative.
"You would be surprised at what a 5-year-old could do with an iPad. I've seen that in action, too,” said Board Member Angie Swiger. “One of the things we have implemented in our district is Rosetta Stone so our 5-year-olds are able to go on the program, choose from 35 different languages and become proficient in that language by the time the get to middle school.”
This measure means that at the total cost of $4 million, 400 new laptops will be issued to middle and high school students, more than 7,000 third through sixth graders will get Macbook Airs, and some 6,000 kindergartners through second graders will get iPads at a cost of about $350 per student.
How will the school board pay for it all?
"In the last year or so, we've had more increase in the sales tax revenues than we've anticipated and a portion of it will come from there,” said Superintendent Alan Lee. “[In] other areas we've tried to cut costs, so we're finding efficiencies throughout the district, [so] we've got funds that we haven't had before."
Board Member David Cox isn't so sure about the expansion.
"We are not going to be able to afford classroom additions or construction of new schools. We are maxed out on our ability to acquire bonds,” Cox said Thursday. “And I have a big problem with expanding a program at $4 million a year when we know that we are growing at a 1,000 students a year, and we don't have any where to put them and we don't have teachers to teach them."
Baldwin County is one of about two dozen school systems in the prestigious League of Innovation Schools, part of the Digital Promise initiative of the White House.
Students are expected to have the new gadgets by January 2014.
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