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EPISD begins issuing laptops to high school students

The El Paso Independent School District has begun distributing more than 16,000 laptops to students this week.

It’s a $6 million district initiative called PowerUp that’s expected to change the way students learn.

“This is their normal for students today,” said EPISD spokesperson Melissa Martinez. “Our freshman and sophomores have been born in this century. They don’t know a world without internet or smart phones or laptops.”

Martinez said the HP Stream laptops cost the district about $220 each and every high school student in the district will get one. Each laptop holds four core digital textbooks and since each paper textbook costs about $100 so the district sees it as a cost-savings.

Over the next two weeks, two high schools per day are scheduled for distribution. District officials said students can opt not to take one, if they have their own device that they would rather use.

Teachers said they are confident it will not only engage students more, it will make their jobs easier.

“Less grading papers,” said Irvin High English teacher Bea Ruiz. “I don’t have to take anything home. All I have to do is just log on, check it, give them their grade and it’s faster feedback.”

What if a student breaks one?

“We’re treating this as textbooks,” said Cynthia Ontiveros, EPISD’s director of PowerUp. “With the textbook, if we tear the page or break the spine, there’s fees that are applied.”

A broken screen, by the way, will cost $138. A lost key or damaged port, only about $5.

ABC-7 overheard students being told to use the “Grandma Rule” when it comes to their school-issued laptops. In other words, if their grandma was looking over their shoulder, would she approve of the site they’re looking at?

Just in case students don’t follow that rule, district officials assured ABC-7 that filters will keep students off certain sites both at school and at home.

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