Fairfax County Schools online textbook plan heads toward final approval

Farifax school officials review an electronic textbook. (Photo: Mike Conneen/ABC7)

Fairfax County Public Schools plan to switch to online textbooks for social studies classes in middle and high schools this fall. Monday, at a School Board work session, district staff will present their plan. They said Board Members have expressed interest and they are expected to approve the program.

Last year, the school district conducted a pilot program that was deemed successful. School officials said most students in the pilot had access to the internet beyond the school day. They said 92% of middle school students and 88% of high school students have internet access at home. They said less than 2% of all students have no internet access anywhere outside of school - whether at home, at a local library or community center.

Peter Noonan, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services for Fairfax County Public Schools said students today have a "Google instinct." He said, "the world is changing. We want to move with the world."

According to current district guidelines, students are currently allowed to use laptops in class. Now, district officials said laptops will be encouraged. Students will have to sign a contract, promising appropriate conduct and internet usage at school. Parents can opt out of the program.

For students who do not own computers or families who cannot afford broadband internet, district officials said it will offer laptops possibly with internet aircards for checkout (daily or annually), similar to programs for loaning musical instruments. They said they are also exploring ways to help those families get access to affordable broadband.

Fairfax County Public Schools will sign a $5 Million, six year contract to subscribe to the online textbook program. For every 100 online subscriptions, the district will receive 30 hardback textbooks.

Watch ABC7 News at 6pm for more details on this story and reaction from students.

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