By Mary Drier
Staff Writer

FAIRGROVE — As the 2012-2013 school year starts, one district is offering students a unique technological advantage.

The Akron-Fairgrove School District will be the first in the area to provide its high school students with their own iPad when classes start.

“This fall current ninth- through twelfth-grade students will have their own iPad for school work and research related to instruction,” explained Superintendent Steve Ley.

To afford to do this, the district partnered with NextEra Energy Resources LLC, which is donating $25,000 to the district to help pay for part of the cost. Plus, grants are also being written.

“There are many benefits to this 100 percent grant funded program,” said Principal Andrew Beauvais. “The program will allow all students access to technology in and out of the classroom.”

Plus, teaching staff will be able to use multimedia, advanced teaching methods like flipping the classroom, and hands-on simulations to enhance the learning opportunities for students.

“The ability to effectively use cutting edge technology is important in college and many professions,” said Beauvais. “Akron-Fairgrove Schools are very thankful for NextEra’s support in giving our students that advantage as they enter the post-secondary world.”

This program will also allow for newer technologies to be phased in as they are produced.

The iPad for students program allows graduating students to keep the iPads if they have been an Akron-Fairgrove High School student for three years.

By doing that, it will allow students who use the iPad as an organizational and communication tool to continue to benefit from that technology, noted Ley.

Some of the benefits of the iPad for high-school students’ program, will be difficult to measure – like confidence with technology, improved task management and future success in situations involving technology.

Ley noted being able to offer the iPad program in the school district “has been a labor of love,” is part of the next evolution of public education, and unique benefit for a small district.

According to Beauvais the district will be tracking and monitoring be test scores, state tests and regular class assessments with the iPad program.

“Supporting education in the communities where we live and work has always been important to us as a company. We understand that in rural school districts around the country budgets are challenged,” said Kevin Gildea, director of development for NextEra Energy Resources. “I’m pleased that we can support creative projects to prepare our children to succeed in school and after they graduate.”

NextEra Energy is the company that’s building the first wind farm, Tuscola Bay Wind Energy Center, in Tuscola County. The farm will be in parts of Bay and Saginaw counties. Several of the wind turbines are being built in the Akron-Fairgrove School District.

NextEra Energy Resources is the largest generator of wind and solar energy in North America.

In addition, Ley noted the Internet company, Air Advantage of Frankenmuth, is the district’s Internet provider, and is helping with the iPad project and upgrading technological at the high school.

Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at