When West Homer Elementary School was built, planners designed the facility with the emerging computer world in mind.
Now, the wired school has attracted nationwide attention and is listed in May's Family PC magazine as one of the top 100 wired schools in the United States.
The school was one of more than 900 that filled out and returned a survey sent by the magazine asking questions such as how many hours of technology training teachers are given and whether technology support is available.
According to the magazine, 84 percent of school classrooms in the country are connected to the Internet, so being listed as one of the top wired schools in the country takes more than a fast modem.
School principal Rick Ladd said West Homer Elementary's students are fully immersed in technology with 130 new computers and some older machines, providing one computer for every two students. In addition, the school recently was linked to the rest of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District with a fiber-optic cable, making its connection to the Internet significantly faster.
"We've used technology for so many things down here," Ladd said. "Our children are constantly using the Web for research and reference."
Students are taught about new software programs as well, and by sixth grade are presenting their reports not on poster board but with Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. Ladd said he recently heard a third-grade class had been working with Microsoft Power-Point, too.
The school's technological savvy also benefits parents. Ladd said the school regularly hosts free training for parents on programs from Microsoft Word to Dream-weaver, a software program for Web design. In addition, Ladd said the school holds teacher training over the Internet with Web conferences.
The school's Web site offers even more technological advantages, the principal said. Parents can go online to check their child's homework assignments, and announcements concerning school activities get sent via e-mail.
"This is such an exciting time," Ladd said.
Family PC magazine was founded in 1994 and serves an audience of 2.3 million, according to the magazine's press release. Topics focus on how to take advantage of technology and the Internet.
West Homer Elementary was the only Alaska school selected for the top 100 list. For more information about the magazine or West Homer Elementary's technology programs, go to the school's Web page at www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/ whe/whe.html.
Carey Restino is a reporter for the Homer News.
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