Charleston School District officials will issue a Google Chromebook laptop computer and protective case to each Charleston High School student during parent-teacher conferences this month, Superintendent Jeff Stubblefield said Thursday.

"At parent-teacher conferences on the 24th, we’ll give them a Google Chromebook and put them into a case, and tell them to go out into the world," Stubblefield said. We want parents of the grades 9 through 12 students to come with the student and pick up their Chromebook, he added.

Stubblefield noted that, with the transition to a common core curriculum, testing is going online. The Arkansas Department of Education notified Charleston School District last week that it would be giving those assessments digitally, Stubblefield said.

The move to computer-based academic units at the high school has been a two-year process incorporated into the district’s regular operating budget, and is a move the Charleston School Board and community strongly supports, Stubblefield said.

"We think this is just exactly what the world is coming to," Stubblefield said.

It’s necessary to prepare students for the skills they’ll need in the future, he said.

Paris School District Superintendent Wayne Fawcett announced in August that Paris schools are going to digital textbooks incrementally this fall, starting with the high school this fall, then the middle school next year and the elementary the following year. That district is starting by issuing Chromebook laptops to Paris High School students. Fawcett also noted the digital transition as a growing education trend.

Stubblefield said Charleston also plans to transition to digital texts in most academic areas.

Besides the computer labs the school already boasts, the district began adding laptop computers in sets of 60, piloted by classes such as language arts classes. When the faculty saw how successful the online approach was, district officials decided to expand the laptop program to the entire high school, Stubblefield said.

"We will have more computers than students at the high school," Stubblefield said with a chuckle.

The high school teachers developed academic units for the computer platform, and students will complete their assignments on them, Stubblefield said.

The high school is wired for Internet access, and both the school and the public library have wireless access. Students who have online access at home may submit their assignments online from home. Those who do not have home access can work on their computer desktops, then download their assignments once they get to school.

The students will be responsible for their computers just as they are now for their textbooks, and will turn them back in at the end of the school year. Parents are encouraged to attend and pick up the Chromebook and can purchase optional accidental damage insurance for $20 if they desire. Students and parents will have several opportunities for orientation regarding the transition to computer-based work. Stubblefield said a 20-minute orientation will be offered at the top of each hour from 2pm to 7pm on Sept. 24.

Once the high school program is underway, the district will eye implementing the laptop program for the seventh- and eighth-graders.

The school started teaching keyboarding classes this year to third-graders, and plans to do that for second-graders as well, Stubblefield said.