Three more Utah schools are clinching a deal that promises an iPad for each student. But others are forfeiting their bids for a tech makeover because they can't afford their share of the bill.
The state gifted digital gear to three schools last year, but this year's candidates had to raise half of the cost, or about $740 per student. The revamp includes high-definition TVs, more computers, teacher training and swift wireless networks.
"In your office, can you function without technologies?" asked Associate Superintendent Brenda Hales. "In schools, the front-line workers are the kids."
The three schools unanimously approved by the board Friday for the Smart Schools program are Price charter school Pinnacle Canyon Academy, North Davis Junior High in Clearfield and the Salt Lake City School District's Newman Elementary School.
Five other schools came up with the money earlier this summer. But the state's contract with Utah business iSchool Campus, which was awarded the bid in July, still awaits signatures, so it's uncertain when the tech tools will make it into their classrooms.
And leaders from the first batch of schools say it can take months for the new system to run smoothly once the hardware arrives.
Wasatch Peak Academy in North Salt Lake was among the schools that bowed out of the program because it couldn't raise the $315,000 it needed, said Principal Sandy Shepard.
Interactive tools like TVs and tablets can "change the direction of teaching," Shepard said, helping students delve deeper into subjects than textbooks do. She said the school will try again next year.
The Smart Schools program is a $2.4 million state effort to update classrooms and better engage students. In 2012, the state set aside $3 million to equip Provo School District's Dixon Middle School, North Sevier High in the Sevier District and Sanpete District's Gunnison Valley Elementary.
Educators there praise the tablets for drawing in students with educational games, videos and interactive lessons, cutting down on paper and textbook costs and speeding up grading.