Tumalo students get free laptops

Intel donates computers to 30 sixth-graders at two schools

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: November 02. 2006 5:00AM PST

TUMALO – Heavy book bags full of papers and pencils may soon be a thing of the past for sixth-graders at Powell Butte School and Tumalo Community School. Each of the students is receiving a personal laptop as part of a grant from Intel Corp.

The High Desert Education Service District is one of three districts in the state that will receive the grant, and the only one that will implement the program at two schools instead of focusing on just one school. Intel has donated $350,000, or about 200 Gateway laptops, total to the three ESDs, Intel Communications Manager Bill MacKenzie said.

The 30 sixth-graders at Tumalo found out about the grant at a news conference at the school Wednesday afternoon. They reacted with surprise, excitement and some disbelief: One student asked the principal, “Is this some kind of trick?”

The computers will be swivel-screen Gateway laptops equipped with the latest Intel microprocessors, MacKenzie said. The students will keep their computers through seventh and eighth grade and into high school, and the sixth-grade teachers at each school will also receive their own laptops.

Sixth-graders at Powell Butte should have their laptops within about three weeks, said Steve Swisher, superintendent of the Crook County School District. The Powell Butte students were also informed Wednesday about the grant, Swisher said.

“It becomes one more important, critical tool, and kids today have access to video games and a variety of things, so they’re not really technophobic like some of the folks that are of the baby boomer generation,” he said. “I think the kids will probably adapt to it more quickly than the adults around them.”

Swisher estimated that about half of the students at Powell Butte have some computer access at home.

“We just see this as sort of a very beginning (point) – education probably in the future will look more like this than traditionally what we’ve been used to,” he said.

The students at Tumalo should receive their laptops in January, Principal Skip Offenhauser said. Both Powell Butte and Tumalo will be set up for wireless Internet access throughout the schools.

Offenhauser said he thinks Tumalo is a good fit because it is a relatively small school and has a stable student population, meaning that the students receiving the computers now will most likely continue through to eighth grade at Tumalo.

“We have kind of a reputation of trying new things, my teachers are very open to trying new techniques,” Offenhauser said. “I think we are just the perfect fit.”

MacKenzie said that Intel selected the three ESDs to participate in the program through an application process and the districts then chose the particular schools. Ben Hansen, information technology director for the High Desert ESD, said Powell Butte and Tumalo were chosen mostly because of their small size so that the grant could be implemented at two different schools.

In addition to the $350,000 donated by Intel, the Oregon Department of Education will contribute $100,000 toward the program, Hansen said.

Intel is a Fortune 500 company that primarily makes microprocessors for computers. It is Oregon’s largest private employer, with about 17,000 workers at its Hillsboro site, according to a news release about the grant.

Teagan Perkins, 11, a sixth-grader at Tumalo, called the grant “really cool.” She said her family has a computer at home that she sometimes uses for homework, but added that she thinks she’ll do more research online when she has her own laptop.

Megan Shaw, 12, said she could hardly believe the news.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” Shaw said. “It just seemed like something that would never happen.”

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