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BANNER ELK, NC (WBTV) – Wednesday was the first day of school for students in Watauga and Avery Counties and a special one for those attending the new Banner Elk Elementary School.
Construction on the new facility was completed this summer with state of the art heating and cooling systems, smart boards in every classroom as well as skylights to add to the lighting.
"It's beautiful," said teacher Megan Gouge. The best thing, though, said Superintendent David Burleson is that the school will be laden with technology."
The bids to build it came in under budget so the county decided to invest the difference back into the school."
The result is a mac-book and iPad for every teacher and an iPad will be assigned to every student. 161 children are enrolled at the school.
The school system's technology team was busy Wednesday setting up each individual tablet and then passing them out classroom by classroom.
"It's awesome, "said one student as she received her new iPad. For now, the computers will be kept at the school but at some point, say officials, students should be allowed to take them home.
Teachers are deciding which applications to add to the basic setup on the iPads.
Students who received them Wednesday were busy working with each other on how to use the devices.
Many of the students either have one at home or their parents do. As a result, the learning curve, say officials is not too steep for the children.
On the other hand, some teachers say they are still just comfortable with the basics on the iPads. "I think a lot of the kids could teach me a thing or two," said teacher Lisa Winters.
Training sessions are being scheduled for teachers to learn how to use the iPads and how to best utilize them in the classroom.
School officials said having the advanced technology available for all the students all the time will only enhance the learning experience at the school.
Traditional teaching concepts won't be abandoned, but will share time with the iPad usage. "Technology will not replace teachers," said Burleson. "It is just another tool."
Only students at Banner Elk Elementary have the iPads so far but officials want to expand the program into all the Avery County schools.
Budgets will determine when that will take place. "It won't happen tomorrow, but it will happen," said Burleson. "And with this community and what I know about it we will find the resources to make that happen."
Burleson became superintendent in Avery County just last month. He spent the past two years in various positions in Forsyth County where he went shortly after he was fired as Superintendent in Burke County in a controversial decision in June of 2009.