Jacksonville Independent School District is almost ready to distribute laptop computers to its current ninth grade students.

Press Relations Representative Marc McCloud said almost 360 computers are planned for release.

“Our tech department needs to install certain software and make sure everything is up to speed,” McCloud said. “We will roll out the computers Sept. 20 or 27.”

McCloud said the federal Vision 2020 grant, awarded to the school at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, will enable all Jacksonville High School freshmen who qualify for the computers to take a laptop home for school-related use.

He added JISD applied for the grant during the 2008-2009 school year.

According to the Jacksonville High School Web site, the goals of the Vision 2020 grant and the school’s 9th Grade Initiative Immersion Project are to improve student academic achievement in the core academic areas, assist every student and teacher in becoming technologically proficient and literate, encourage effective integration of technology resources into the curriculum and achieve system change in the teaching process in a way which utilizes technology tools.

JISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell said this grant presents great opportunities to the school and its students.

“I think it’s a tremendous thing for our kids because so many students do not have access to our computers when they are away from school,” Wardell said.

Wardell also said when a needs assessment survey was done with the students it was discovered about half of JISD students didn’t have access to the Internet at home.

“This opens up opportunities not just for our kids, but also for families to have more technology within their homes,” Wardell said.

He also said it is unclear whether funding will be continued in subsequent years.

McCloud estimated the amount of money for the computers at close to $500,000, which he said would pay for hardware, software, the computers themselves and maintenance on the computers.

Before being allowed to use the computers, McCloud said parents and students must view a series of short videos on proper upkeep and operation of the machines.

He also said filters will be installed on each of the laptops to prevent children and parents from using them to view inappropriate Web sites or install software such as video games on the computers.

Technology Coach Debbie McGraw said the products which have already been delivered to the school are Dell miniature laptops.

“They’re like normal laptops, just a little bit smaller,” McGraw said.

She said these wireless mobile computing devices, which will also be provided to ninth grade educators, provide a great advantage to students who would not otherwise have one and added the computers amount to having an additional supercharged tool.

“This will open up so many more windows for the students,” she said.

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