MARYVILLE (WATE) – A new program is bringing more technology to classrooms by providing more than 5,000 iPads and Dell laptops to students.

The Maryville School system has been working for the last year and half to get the iReach program on its feet. Director of Schools, Mike Winstead, said the initiative was part of their strategic plan nearly five years ago. It provides one piece of technology to every student. Children in the fifth through 12th grades will get a Dell laptop to take home. Pre-K through fourth grade students will get an iPad.

Winstead said the iReach program will put all students on the same level.

“Often the gap that’s most troubling is the gap between students of affluency and those that maybe don’t have that. One way to level that playing field and give kids the tools they need is this technology,” said Winstead.

Maryville City Schools modeled their program after one from a school district in Morrisville, North Carolina that’s similar in size.

The total startup cost was more than two million dollars. That included about $1.1 million in infrastructure upgrades to all schools to accommodate the new technology, $750,000 to lease the laptops a year, and roughly $500,000 to buy the iPads outright.

Wednesday was the first day students and their parents could pick up the technology. It was an exciting day for students like Drew Hair and his brother Seth. “I really can’t explain it. Just very happy to get one,” said Hair.

Parents had to sign some paperwork, pay a $50 usage fee, and are also given the option of insuring the device through a third party. Hair was given a laptop to take home.

“We don’t have to take every binder home to study for tests,” said Hair.

The program is not only a change for students, but teachers. “It will just be making sure that as a teacher, I’m well organized and that my students also stay well organized. That’s a big deal in high school,” said teacher, Maria Willard.

Another aspect to the initiative included partnering with organizations to provide internet near homes that aren’t equipped for high-speed Wi-Fi. The Blount County library, Maryville College, United Way and more have extended their Wi-Fi zones.

The Blount Partnership has compiled an online directory to show students where this is free internet near their homes.

Technology pick-up is available at Maryville High School during these times:

Registration Required Events:
  • July 15, 2015  (11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
  • July 17, 2015  (8:00 a.m. – noon)
  • July 17, 2015  (3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.)
  • July 20, 2015  (10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.)
  • July 20, 2015  (3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.)
Drop-in Events:
  • July 25, 2015  (9:00 a.m. – noon)
  • July 25, 2015  (1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.)
  • July 27, 2015  (3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.)

For more information visit Maryville City School’s website.