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High-Tech School Criticized Small School Awash In Grants, But Some Fear ‘Basics’ At Risk

Naples Elementary has only 120 students. Yet, this little Boundary County school has landed nearly a half-million dollars in grants for the latest technology, training and 47 computers.

It has equipment other schools can envy but not afford.

A handful of parents now say the district has overdosed on technology. They went so far as to ask the school board to turn down nearly $200,000 in state technology money.

“There is absolutely too much emphasis on technology rather than the basics,” said parent Julie Koehler. “They are saying computers are a cure-all for discipline problems, overcrowded classes and every other ill in the schools. That just sounds crazy to me.”

Koehler and about 99 other residents signed a petition questioning the emphasis on technology and other new educational programs.

District officials are a bit surprised to find themselves in the midst of a tech-war with parents, since other schools are clamoring for money and computers.

Naples Principal Jenny Garcia said most parents support the Naples program. Those in opposition are not just worried about technology but other experimental educational programs, she said.

Naples was selected two years ago as one of six model schools in Idaho.

The program, called Schools 2000, puts a heavy emphasis on the use of computers with the curriculum.

“Some people see the program and technology as a threat to the back-tobasics movement,” Garcia said. “We like to see technology as another tool, not a replacement for the basics.”

For example, Garcia said a firstgrade class just finished a writing project that included handwritten and typed reports on computers.

“They go through the stages of a rough draft, a neat handwritten copy and one printed on the computer,” she said. “We are not giving up handwriting or any of the other processes. We are just adding to them.”

Technology like anything else can be used or misused, she said. “But I don’t think it’s any more prone to misuse than ditto sheets are.”

Koehler still worries that students will suffer in the long run. Now that the school is loaded with high-tech equipment it will cost the district thousands of dollars to update and maintain it.

Also, teacher training days for the next year-and-a-half are on technology, she said.

“So instead of spending time and effort getting back to language skills and things like that, the time is going to be spent learning a machine,” she said.

Koehler and other parents said they are not opposed to new technology, but don’t want all of Boundary County’s schools to follow the Naples model.

“What we are saying is until the school can prove it produces higher academic achievers it shouldn’t be pushing the program on the rest of us. It’s still just an experiment,” Koehler said.

“I hope they have success. If they do I will be on the front lines cheering them, but I want to see it first.”

Tags: education