CALIFORNIA Program requiring laptops put on hold

Many parents worried that the program set up a digital divide.
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- A controversial program asking parents at a local middle school to buy $2,000 laptops for their sixth-graders has been formally put on hold after scores of parents complained that it wasn't fair to kids whose families can't afford them.
Bob Golton, acting superintendent of schools for Palo Alto, said he plans to name an advisory group to study the program, directed at sixth-graders at Jordan Middle School, before moving ahead.
"The pause will allow for a re-evaluation of the program," Golton wrote in a letter to sixth-graders and their parents.
Steve Weinstein, who was among the parents opposing the program, said he was happy to hear that the district had reconsidered. "Hopefully, they can turn this elitist program into one that the rest of Palo Alto can afford," he said.
Concerns: Although school officials took pains to point out that the purchase of the Apple iBook laptops and the complementary software was "optional," many parents worried that the program set up a digital divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Parents also said they had concerns about the added weight in backpacks, repetitive strain injuries and the wisdom of giving 11-year-olds responsibility for an expensive computer.
In a preliminary survey, 25 percent of the school's parents said they planned to buy an iBook, 35 percent said they would not be purchasing the hardware/software package, and 40 percent were on the fence.
The school district still plans to move ahead with the purchase of 100 iBooks, to be divided among the district's three middle schools and used by sixth-graders on campus.

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