Lake Norman & Mooresville

School issues community challenge

Barnette Elementary School wants to buy iPads to help educate the future leaders of the country, but they need the community's help.

The school is competing in Pepsi's Refresh Everything Project, which has given away $1.2 million each month to organizations over the last two years.

Participants can compete in several price categories ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

Shannon McNamara, a parent of a second-grader at Barnette, said the school is competing in the $25,000 category.

McNamara said they decided to complete in that category because it would cover the cost of a classroom set of iPad2s, applications and additional equipment.

The top 15 organizations with the most votes by the end of December will receive $25,000 each.

McNamara heard about the program when she was applying for grants for her daughter's old school in Massachusetts.

When her family relocated to the Lake Norman area, she suggested the idea to the Barnette PTA.

"Education is a very powerful thing," said McNamara. "The teachers are doing a wonderful job as it is, but anything we can do to help them help our kids prepare for the future is worth the effort."

Since the competition began on Dec. 1, the school has consistently ranked around 28.

McNamara said it's especially important that the school get in the top 15 because this is the last month Pepsi is selecting winners for its Refresh Everything Project.

"This is our one and only chance to do this," she said. "We really need some big pushes and extra people."

Second-grade teacher Lindsay Cassam said the school has focused on bringing technology into the classroom since it opened in 2008.

Since the economy faltered soon after opening, the school has worked with a technological deficit, she said.

"Even though we were a new school, we typically have not had a lot of technology in the past," she said. "We're trying to focus on getting us caught up with other schools and the school system."

School staff and parents initially planned to use the grant money to buy a Promethean board in each class in grades two through five. These boards are often called interactive white boards. They incorporate technology to allow for greater teacher-student collaboration.

Instead, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools made the investment for them at a cost of $4,000 per board.

"We were really lucky," said Cassam. "It was unbelievable that they did that because usually the schools have to buy the boards for themselves."

With the new installment of Promethean boards, Cassam said, the school shifted its attention to getting a classroom set of iPads.

"We're constantly looking at ways to stay current, and if we can teach in a way that's engaging and motivating to them, that's what we want to do," said Cassam. "The more technologically savvy and smart the students are, the more likely they'll be able to graduate and function in society."