Local News

Oct 31, 2013 6:39 PM by Mike Manzoni

6 Investigates: Bookless Backpacks

CORPUS CHRISTI -- There's something different about Denis Wisner's ninth grade world geography class at Collegiate High School.

"It's almost like you're being reinvented," he said, "because you're given this new tool."

Those tools are iPads and laptops, and in his classroom they have for the most part replaced text books. It's a digital leap forward that students and teachers welcome.

"I have less stuff in my backpack," said freshman Jade Keller.

But the students at Collegiate High School represent only a fraction of the more than 40,000 students in the district. For many others who don't have access to iPads the downsides, some say, are a problem, and a big one.

Mary Helen Berlanga, a local attorney who served on the State Board of Education for 30 years, is a critic of the transition to digital learning, but not because she doesn't embrace technology.

"I can understand moving to digital; I really can," she said. "What I can't understand is not giving the children tools to take home so that they can continue their work at home."

At Collegiate High School, for example, the school-supplied iPads are stowed in a cabinet at the end of the day, which means unless students have their own personal iPad or laptop they don't have any reference text available to take home.

Roland Soto's son, Antonio, is a freshman at W.B. Ray High School and has dealt with this problem first-hand. Soto said when his son is doing his homework assignments he doesn't have a text book to reference, and that, he said, has made a difference on his report card.

"I know if he was to be bringing home the books and really having to do the homework his grades would be a lot better than what they are."

But Antonio isn't the only one bringing home an empty book bag. Several C.C.I.S.D. students don't bring home any text books because the district cannot afford them, but that is not the district's fault.

"The amount of money that's allocated in the instructional materials allotment doesn't cover the amount required to buy one text book for every student," said Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliff.

He said the $3.1 million in funding the district gets from the state for instructional materials covers more than just text books. The problem, he said, is that the money is not nearly enough for the 40,000 plus students in the district.

But only the state legislature can raise the funding. "They basically have created the problem, so now they need to find a way to resolve it to help the school district's and to help our children," said Berlanga.

Elliff said that while the district doesn't have any specific plans for phasing out traditional text books, he believes it will happen at some point in the future.

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