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New school will see fewer students with enormous backpacks

A new, bookless public school is opening in West Sacramento Sept. 7. Instead of the usual stack of textbooks, each student at the California College, Career & Technical Education Center will receive an Apple iPad.

The school will initially serve only ninth- and 10th-grade students, but plans to expand to serve adult-aged students within one year and kindergarten through eighth-grade students within two years.

“As a charter school, we have some freedom to try things like this,” Executive Director of CCCTEC Paul Preston said. Preston said he wouldn’t be surprised to see devices like iPads begin replacing books in classrooms across America soon, citing the high price of text books and broad utility of devices like the iPad.

“I think it has the capability to really take off in the next two to three years,” Preston said.

As for concerns that students would play games on their devices instead of work, Preston said it’s a matter of teachers being able to control students and pointed out that it’s just as easy for students to play Tic-Tac-Toe on a piece of paper.

Teachers have the option to create their own supplemental learning materials and electronic devices could facilitate the distribution, said Tim Herrera, spokesman for the Sacramento County Office of Education.

“Anything technologically that can encourage students to learn and get them excited about their schoolwork we encourage,” he said.

As for teachers creating something wacky or incorrect, Herrera said distributed materials must adhere to state standards; the materials must be vetted, credible, and accurate.

“It’s a great idea,” said 10th and 11th grade English teacher Christin O’Cuddehy, who works at Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School. “The problem then becomes the maintenance. What happens when a student drops it in the bathtub?”

Despite these types of problems, O’Cuddehy said the advantages of a bookless classroom make the whole endeavor worth it.

“We just had a big meeting about this,” O’Cuddehy said. “It’s something we’re hoping to roll out in the next five years.”

One commonly cited advantage of a bookless system is the sheer amount of free textbooks, novels and other learning materials that can be readily found on the Internet and stored.

Print publications are slowly being taken over by the proliferation of the Internet, but many people remain adamant that the printed word will never disappear completely.

The principal of Merryhill Elementary School, Lezli Warburton, said she was uncertain whether a program like the one CCCTEC is trying would work well with her students because of their young age. She said she doesn’t see electronic devices replacing pencils and paper at her school anytime soon.

Sacramento Press reporter Brandon Darnell contributed to this story.

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