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$41m deal for Macs gives Maine schools 70,000 laptops

Apple to equip 32,000 students and 4,000 teachers with iBook notebook computers and upgraded wireless networks.

Maine will buy $41 million of laptop computers from Apple to supply 30,000 7th and 8th graders and their teachers. The contract extended Maine's groundbreaking program for another four years, AP reports.

The deal announced Thursday is similar to the one reached when the project was originally launched in 2002. It works out to an annual cost of $289 per laptop.

It calls for Apple to equip 32,000 students and 4,000 teachers with iBook notebook computers and upgraded wireless networks. The four-year contract also includes warranties and perks like professional development for each of Maine's 241 public middle schools.

At $289 a laptop, the project is not a lot more expensive than Nicholas Negroponte's expansive One Laptop Per Child program - and it's a lot easier to pull off.

"The first four years have been really good," technology coordinator Gary Lanoie said. "If we didn't find a way to continue the project at our middle schools, our teachers would be very upset with me. They might lynch me. It's that ingrained."

So what happens to the old iBooks? Shipped off to China for peasants to mine? Nope. They're being upgraded and redeployed in other grades or for other purposes. That means the total number of laptops in Maine public schools this fall will number more than 70,000, said Maine Education Commission Susan Gendron.