By Léo Azambuja
Anything is possible with a little help from friends – and Rotarians.
Thanks to a collective effort from members of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, teachers, businesses, students and parents, Kilauea Elementary School has fully implemented a costly iPad program, and will comply with an even costlier new standardized curriculum required by the state Department of Education.
Before a room filled with approximately 300 people, the majority of them students, Kilauea Elementary School Principal Sherry Gonsalves shared the good news Monday morning.
“Starting Monday, every other day, each of you in grades kindergarten through five will have access to an iPad mini,” she said.
The iPad program, including supporting hardware and accessories, cost $68,000 and will be used by 260 of the school’s nearly 300 children. Gonsalves said six-graders will continue to use laptops, at the request of their teachers.
Last year, under the leadership of second-grade teacher Michelle Gibson, the school started a pilot program with 30 iPads. Her students used the iPads three times a week. Fifth-grade teacher Scott Schwemmer had the iPads in his classroom twice a week.
The money for those first iPads, $18,000, was raised through the Donors Choose website, and the majority of the donations came from the Uluwehi Charitable Fund. The $50,000 for the remaining iPads was raised by the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, including businesses and individuals.
Now, each student in the entire school will have access to Internet-based learning.
After thanking the many donors who made the program possible, about 50 children showed the students’ gratitude by singing a song especially made for the occasion, composed by Rotarian Rick Gerding.
“The Rotary cares about me and you,
“They care about everything that we do,
“Internet is really cool,
“It’s turning on all over school.”
Following the song, some of the students talked about their projects, and Gibson took a $300 check for being picked as the teacher with “the best iPad plan.”
Gonsalves then unveiled the after-school iPals4iPads Club for students in grades two through five, starting Feb. 20. Rotarian Ken Hughes, who helped to train the teachers on the iPads, will lead the club.
Just as it appeared the event was over, Rotarian Ric Cox announced the Rotary will readopt all 13 classrooms for 2014 and provide each with $700 to be used in supplies and a field trip.
But there was more.
Cox said that as soon as the Rotary raised $68,000 for the iPads, Gonsalves informed him the state Department of Education is requiring all elementary schools to purchase a new curriculum called Reading Wonders.
The new curriculum comes in print and digital form, fitting nicely with the iPad program. However, the cost for the new curriculum is $76,000.
Gonsalves said the state provided $16,000, and she was very thankful for that. But they were still short $60,000.
“Sherry, your wish is my command,” said Cox, who was instrumental in orchestrating the funding for the iPad program. “Your PTSA will soon receive $60,000. No principal, no teachers, no students deserve it more.”
He said that by Feb. 13, the Rotary will have all the money raised and will deliver a check to Kilauea School’s PTSA.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about the lesson plan. It’s about being there for our kids,” said Cox, quoting a letter from an experienced teacher to a younger one.