Should public schools be training the next generation of Apple addicts?

Wellesley Public Schools is considering making fifth-grade students buy or lease an iPad, as well as educational software to run on it. Does Apple really need the assistance in getting its products into the public’s hands?

Globe correspondent Evan Allen writes that students will be able to lease-to-buy iPads for $155 a year for four years, and then buy the iPad for a dollar at the end of the term.

Considering the extras included in the lease, that $621 price tag doesn’t sound too bad depending on the model: A third generation, 32GB iPad retails at $599, and Allen reports that the leased models come with “a standard suite of apps, a case, a management license, four years of repair and replacement, accidental damage coverage of up to two incidents, and access to short-term loaners.”

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When a host of city councils announced they were swapping out print minutes for iPads a few years ago as a “cost saving measure,” I rolled my eyes: It seemed like a hopelessly naive move at best, and likely a disingenuous one by at least some public representatives too cheap to pay for their own toys.

But the opportunities in academics seem genuine to me, particularly if it can swap out monstrously expensive and weighty textbooks with digital equivalents.

The rub, then, is in how well the transition from paper to electronics planned: How often will rowdy fifth graders forget their iPad is in their backpack before tossing it into the car before piling their soccer cleats on top? Will enough digital texts exist to replace, and not just supplement, some printed textbooks?

And perhaps most importantly, will the industry ultimately make e-texts more expensive, not less, than traditional texts, adding hidden costs to Wellesley students for years down the road?

Good answers to all these questions need to come before school districts jump into any iPad-centric strategy. I hope that Wellesley Public Schools finds — and shares — the answers as they move forward.

What do you think: Can iPads reinvent education, or are they a shiny boondoggle with a steep price tag? Let me know at, or tweet your thoughts to @HiveBoston