Pilot program would phase out textbooks

Staff Report

Mehlville School District officials are in the preliminary stages of creating a pilot program to phase out textbooks in favor of more technology in the classrooms.

Superintendent Eric Knost told the Board of Education Sept. 27 that the goal is to equip one class each at Mehlville and Oakville high schools with laptop computers in the spring. Administrators are leaning toward selecting ninth-grade communication arts classes as their textbooks are nearly due for an update, Knost said.

“We’re thinking about creating a pilot for this in the spring where we would maybe select one class in each high school and outfit the class and go through the trials of seeing how the kids respond to it, how the teachers respond to it, if there are some positives in the area of student achievement — more kids engaged — so on and so forth,” Knost told the board. “But we’re excited about the idea. We’ve got some teachers that are excited.”

Knost and board members have discussed the possibility of putting computers in students’ hands instead of traditional textbooks as a “return-on-investment” endeavor. The district would save money over time because it wouldn’t have to purchase as many updated books, Knost has said.

Several of the textbooks the district uses are available online, Knost noted.

Mehlville has cut its textbook budget in half over the last four school years. The district spent roughly $1 million on textbooks in 2007-2008. The approved 2011-2012 budget anticipates $500,000 will be spent on textbooks.

“I’m not suggesting and I don’t want anybody to think that I’m going totally away from textbooks or going in that direction — my leadership isn’t doing that,” he said.

The pilot program would be paid for with budgeted funds, Knost said. The board could discuss allocating additional moneys to expand the program if it’s successful, he said.