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Laptops filing in to local schools

Some have them. Some don’t. But the state insists that more are on the way.

Like Philipsburg-Osceola, hundreds of laptop computers will hit students’ desks in other local high schools by the end of the school year. Some classrooms are already making the transition.

“We’ve got all our equipment in place, along with the laptops — 240 student laptops,” said Gary Massaglia, educational assistant for technology and grants for the Bald Eagle Area School District.

Eight teachers also received laptops, he said. Some started using them before winter break, and he expected others to go online this week. Part of the grant paid for teachers, as well as students, to have laptops, but specified that those who teach core subjects — math, English, science and social studies — would get them first.

State College has received 593 laptops, and Penns Valley was expected to receive about 150 laptops early this month.

Only one local high school, Bellefonte, didn’t apply for laptops this year due to an ongoing renovation project, but the district has started its own initiative. Every teacher and administrator in the district from kindergarten to 12th grade now has a laptop — the culmination of a two-year program, said Richard Knepp, director of information services.

As the high school project nears completion, the district is considering applying for a grant to purchase laptops for students next school year.

“That is a topic of discussion for our tech committee meeting next Thursday,” Knepp said last week.

Once laptops arrive in Penns Valley, Principal Brian Ishler said he expects it will take a couple weeks before the computers are ready for students to use. But some upgrades already are in the works.

“We just purchased some new switches, so we would be ready for all the laptops,” he said. “We are actually looking at making the whole high school wireless.”

Fourteen classrooms have been designated as “Classrooms for the Future,” as the state grant is called, and the teachers in those rooms have until August to complete an online course to help them learn how to integrate the technology into the classroom. One teacher has been named as the “coach” of the group.

In State College, the high school already had some laptops — but not nearly the almost 600 it received through the state program.

Teachers had to share the laptops and couldn’t use them for each period. Now the extra equipment enables teachers to use them every period if they wish, said Tom Mincemoyer, technology director.

“They are so excited about having them every period of every day now,” he said. “It just allows them to do a lot more things with them, including spontaneous activities that might come up.”

State Education Department spokesman Michael Race said schools had the option of picking laptops with Windows or Macintosh operating systems.

“By February, every school (that received a grant in 2006 or 2007) is going to be equipped,” Race said. “The difference in time came down to paperwork.”

Earlier this school year, there also was some confusion over exactly how much funding each district received. Money for some had been significantly reduced in order to give more districts the opportunity to have laptops.

Philipsburg-Osceola, for example, initially was awarded enough funds for about 600 laptops, but the funds were cut in half as part of the state budget process last year.

Race said that no changes have been made since the numbers last were adjusted during the summer.

Dena Pauling can be reached at 231-4619.

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