Program off to good start, but still much work to do.

New high school, new technology.

When the new Garden City High School opened this year, staff and students were greeted by more than a state-of-the-art facility.

They also embarked on a 1-to-1 iPad technology program that features the use of school-issued iPad computers.

The district made a significant investment in the technology program, with more than $800,000 in first-year expense that included 2,200 iPads for students and 130 for teachers. Funding came from bond money saved during construction of the new high school.

Estimated cost for the second year will be about $450,000, and $350,000 the third year, all to come out of the supplemental general fund.

During Monday's Garden City USD 457 Board of Education meeting, GCHS students and staff shared specifics on the program's launch.

Perhaps most encouraging were reports of how interaction between students and staff was energized.

Teachers described the tablets as invaluable in presenting curriculum and connecting with students. Some have said they would rather not go back to teaching without iPads.

GCHS students reported they're more engaged. They've found tutorials and other apps available on the iPad that help them learn, and say they're more organized because of the tablet computers.

Students also can download numerous free books to their iPad easier to manage than a backpack full of books, and one way to curb the cost of textbooks.

Critics who call the iPads high-priced toys should acknowledge how the devices can do the work of calculators, notebooks and other traditional tools. Purchases of such supplies will decline as tablets erase the need for those items.

Schools trying to prepare youngsters to succeed in a fast changing technological environment should equip those students with the most effective tools available.

Much of what the students shared Monday reflected technological advantages and expectations they would have in college and the workforce, where efficiency and organization matter more than ever.

That said, it's easy to see how the novelty of the new technology program would be exciting for students and teachers. Only time will tell how the cutting-edge learning tools help boost student achievement.