*A laptop developed by the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child project for donation to children in developing countries will also be used by students at Delaware County's Chester Community Charter School.
Vahan Gureghian, the CEO of Charter School Management Inc., which runs the school, and his wife Danielle Gureghian are giving 1,400 XO computers to the school, for use by students in third to eighth grade. The Gureghians are paying about $400,000 for the laptops, said spokesman A. Bruce Crawley.
The school has about 2,400 students and is the largest non-cyber charter school in Pennsylvania.
Though the focus of the One Laptop project continues to be on sending laptops to developing countries, other American schools are trying them out as well.
The city of Birmingham Alabama bought 15,000 of the computers earlier this year for use in schools; an 800-student elementary school was the first to get them. In South Carolina, private donors bought 500 of the laptops this spring for use by low-income children in Marion County. And a small number are being piloted by the New York City department of education in two schools.
The first 350 computers arrived at the Chester Community Charter school yesterday and were presented to students, staff and parents in a ceremony in the gymnasium of the school's West Campus. The event was attended by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of One Laptop Per Child, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R. Delaware), whose district includes Chester, Chester Mayor Wendell Butler and State Senator Anthony Williams (D, Philadelphia).
The green and white laptops, which measure about 9.5 inches by 9 inches and have a six-inch by 4.5-inch viewing screen, are wired for internet access and come installed with other features, including word processing and a calculator, video, audio and still-picture taking capability, a music synthesizer and a paint program. The cost of each computer is $259, according to the One Laptop website.
Chester Community Charter School CEO Steven Lee told the audience at yesterday's celebration that the school would hire a technology person to help quickly integrate the laptops into the school's curriculum.
"The XO computer . . . will allow our students to discover a new and exciting type of learning and give them a headstart in our increasingly digital world," said Lee.
Pileggi praised the Gureghians and their contribution as "just another example of that commitment to excellence that the children in Chester Community Charter School have all of the tools they need to achieve their full potential."
Vahan Gureghian said that "too many students in districts like ours are being deprived of the technology which has become a basic necessity in life. We're not going to let that happen to students here at the Chester Community Charter School."
Negroponte said that One Laptop Per Child has distributed about half a million computers to children in 31 countries around the world. "We didn't have the United States in mind" when the project started, he said. But some people have started to say "maybe this can be used in our country," he said.
But "the Gureghians have taken a step that may not just be for Chester but may actually a be message to the United States. . . . Maybe we should be doing this here, because . . . we have areas that aren't so affluent. If we can make this contagious, it would be wonderful."