NEWBURYPORT — Until now, they were almost considered contraband in Newburyport schools.
But a philosophy that had students leaving their smartphones and mobile devices in their locker or backpack for fear they would distract from learning is about to change.
With the rollout of wireless capability at the high school and a similar upgrade planned this spring at Nock Middle/Molin Upper Elementary School, educators will instead be encouraging students to tote their iPads and other tablets, smartphones and laptops into the classroom.
The plan, dubbed From Home Technology Program, is intended to increase students' access to learning tools on the Web, while decreasing demand on the district's inventory of computers.
Students without personal access to a laptop or tablet will be able to use one of the computers available at the school. The Newburyport Education Foundation, which is footing the bill for increasing the district's wireless capabilities, plans to provide schools with additional electronic devices in the future.
"The superintendent was working on his plan and what his priorities were going to be, and wireless came to the top really fast for him," NEF board member Cindy Johnson said of the group's recent gift. "That's largely because, what it's going to do is increase the access to technology, because students can bring in their own technology. You'll have more flexibility on where you could use it, because you won't have to go to a hard-wired computer anymore."
Superintendent Marc Kerble this week told the School Committee that students and faculty are anxiously awaiting the official opening day for wireless access. It's currently up and running with password protection, but Kerble said that since policies regarding acceptable usage are still being hammered out, complete access probably won't happen until students return from February vacation.