Frederick private school to give middle school students iPads -- Gazette.Net


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St. John’s Regional Catholic School will provide busing for more students this year when the private school starts a bus service for students from the western part of the county.

The bus line will begin in Jefferson County, W.Va., and will serve students coming from Charlstown, W.Va., Brunswick, Jefferson and Middletown.

Until now, the school has offered limited busing for students from Mount Airy and Urbana. The service was available through a partnership with St. John’s Catholic Prep High School, 889 Butterfly Lane, Frederick, said Sheila Evers, director of marketing and development.

The bus line marks the school’s first independent attempt to provide transportation for students and officials are hoping to use it as foundation for creating a transportation network throughout Frederick County.

“We are very excited to have that this year,” Principal Karen Smith said. “We have been working on that for a while.”

St. John’s Regional Catholic School, 8414 Opossumtown Pike, educates 600 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade, who come from seven regional parishes in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

This year families will pay about $1,500 per year for busing on the new line, which is just enough to support the service, Evers said. Tuition at the school is $6,400 per year.

“We didn’t want to have parents not choosing Catholic education only because they cannot provide transportation,” Evers said.

The bus service is just one of the new intiatives at the school this year. This fall, St. John’s Regional also is moving ahead with its one-on-one computing intiative, which aims to equip every middle school student with an iPad tablet by the 2014-15 academic year.

As part of that effort this year, the school will purchase iPads for all seventh-grade students. Students will be able to use the iPads in class and transfer their work to their home computer using an application called eBackpack.

The one-on-one computing program — which is the first of its kind in Frederick County — started last year, when a $38,740 grant from the Marion I and Henry J. Knott Foundation allowed the school to install a wireless Internet connection and purchase individual iPads for its 60 eighth-graders.

The effort continues this year as the school spends $30,000 on purchasing 51 additional iPads for all seventh-graders.

The idea is to use a teaching tool that students recognize and enjoy, Assistant Principal Paul Fer said.

“It definitely engages them,” he said.

When the school started the initiative last year, it helped lighten students’ backpacks, reduce paper waste and save $30,000 from purchasing electronic instead of paper textbooks.

“It’s a new teaching strategy,” Fer said.

The iPads have allowed at least one teacher to go entirely paperless in her classes.

The school plans to expand the program to sixth graders next year, Fer said.

In the spring, St. John’s Regional Catholic School also is applying for a green school certification from the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education.

The nonprofit provides support, resources and networking opportunities for educators and schools that take an interdisciplinary approach to environmental friendly practices.

In Frederick County, 10 public and private schools have received green certification at least once.

To obtain certification, schools have to show they use eco-friendly practices and teach environmental responsibility, among other things.

According to Fer, St. John’s Regional is basing it’s application on green initiatives, which include the school’s recycling program, its composting efforts and a recent grant-based effort to expand the school’s tree canopy.

mraycheva@gazette.net