The Transylvania Times -

By Jeremiah Reed
Staff Writer 

Brevard Academy Students Getting Laptops


BREVARD, N.C. — Brevard Academy students will soon be on the forefront of classroom technology after being selected by its funding partner, the Challenge Foundation, as the pilot school for a program involving laptops in fifth grade and middle school classes.

School Director Tony Helton announced the news at the recent monthly board of directors meeting. According to Helton, the new program provides every student between grades five and eight with a MacBook Air.

Helton said this move was not a departure from traditional instruction, rather just a new way for young people to learn.

“I see this program as just a different way of delivering the same tried and true successful information that schools have been teaching for years,” he said.

The laptops, which sell for retail starting at $999, will be funded by the Challenge Foundation, the private charitable trust established in 1988. The Challenge Foundation also forms direct partnerships with schools in a national network called TeamCFA. Currently there are eight TeamCFA schools in three states. Brevard Academy is one of five TeamCFA schools in North Carolina.

Board Chair Connie Tolppi said it was important to implement a detailed set of regulations regarding the use of the laptops, student/parent liability should the laptops suffer damage, and safeguarding the machines against potential computer viruses.

As a pilot school, Brevard Academy will report to the Challenge Foundation on the progress of the program so it can be assessed for possible future use in other TeamCFA schools.

“They (Challenge Foundation) want to see what is good, what is bad, did it help test scores, is it beneficial, how can it work better. All those things,” Helton said.

Students will keep the laptops until the end of the school year at which point they would be returned and recycled back into the program. Helton believes the program would cut down on costs for textbooks, since many texts could be purchased as ebooks for under $20 as opposed to spending several hundred dollars on traditional texts.

He also believes laptops would reduce the physical burden put on students.

“By the time you put four or five books in a backpack it can weigh more than 50 pounds in some instances,” Helton said. “I envision a day where a student’s backpack doesn’t weigh more than the student.”

Throughout the nation, technology continues to be embraced in the classroom with varying results. Board member C. Philip Byers said failures in some schools should have no impact on the ability of other schools to succeed.

“There have been reports about schools that had laptops and grades didn’t improve,” Byers said, “but the ultimate answer is it’s never been tried at Brevard Academy. So let us set the standard, not other schools.”

In other meeting items:

• Helton discussed his progress in securing an activity school bus.

Helton said he did find some options but hadn’t been pleased with the overall quality thus far. Charlotte-Mecklenburg County will have 257 buses available sometime in June, he said.

He hoped to find a suitable bus at that time.

• According to the director’s report, current enrollment at the end of April stood at 173. There are currently 198 applications as of May 8, with six available spots open next year through state funds.

• The board unanimously passed a motion to update the current school dress code pertaining to acceptable colors of undershirts, athletic shorts and athletic pants. A motion was passed to make a bulk purchase of shirts allotted for the band.

Currently, students must purchase these shirts on their own. Under the new rule, the shirts will be checked out by students and returned when their band duty is over.


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