Pope John Paul High School touts its wireless technology

4-year-old school with 74 students was built with computers in mind

For The OlympianNovember 7, 2013 

Lacey’s private Pope John Paul II High School is a wireless school where each student’s personal tablet laptop acts as a virtual three-ring binder and a portal to his or her education.

It’s a $1,500 investment each of the 74 families makes, and the laptop remains with each student through his or her years at Pope John Paul II.

Students scrawl algebra notes with their stylus pens, flip through virtual flashcards, organize their work, compile and analyze data, take quizzes and turn in assignments — often without ever putting pen to paper.

“It’s so nice to have everything in one place,” said senior Marissa Allin. Because their textbooks are almost all digital and most materials are accessed through their laptops, it makes for a much lighter backpack, said Allin.

If senior Jackson Bakse needs to find something he wrote down during a lecture, “I can search my notes all the way back to freshman year.”

The school’s technology hasn’t come cheap.

Officials at the school estimate they spent about $75,000 on technology overhead when the school was built four years ago, money that came from grants. Families continue to pay a small technology fee each year for Internet access, said principal Ronald Edwards.

Edwards and staff believe that the systems have been worth their price tag. Digital textbooks save them money, he pointed out, because the cost of printed textbooks has skyrocketed.

In each of Pope John Paul II’s seven classrooms, teachers use interactive whiteboards from a company called Promethean.

The projectors — connected to both the teacher’s computer and handheld devices used by the students — can receive and aggregate results from pop quizzes in seconds and manipulate parabolas with the brush of a fingertip.

According to Ron Morsette, the district’s instructional technology director, Olympia schools are incorporating some of the same systems that the Catholic high school uses.

One middle school has some Promethean whiteboards, while some math and science departments at the high schools use similar interactive digital projectors.

The district has money from a 2010 capital levy specifically earmarked for technology that it’s used to implement and maintain high-tech advancements.

The levy expires at the end of 2014, and the district is considering whether to place a renewal of that levy on next February’s ballot.

“Were that (levy) to go away,” Japhet said, “we’d take a giant leap backwards.”

See the school

Pope John Paul II High School hosts JPII Experience Nights for anyone interested in learning about the school. The events start at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13 and Feb. 12.

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