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About 50 Pikes Peak Prep charter school students will begin using iPads in their core classes this year. It’s a move educators hope will cut costs and expand students’ learning opportunities.

It’s better than staring at paper,” said 10th-grader Eileen Alvarez.

The 15-year-old on Wednesday demonstrated the virtual frog dissection application that takes users step-by-step through the process on the hand-held tablet computer — minus the wet, squishy bits.

Science teacher Marlene Duran is thrilled with the visual and auditory abilities of the high-tech tablets. The frog dissection app not only goes through the experiment but contains pages of information on the amphibians and a biological comparison of frogs and humans.

Students have a library at their fingertips,” said Pikes Peak Prep Principal Patricia Arnold.

The management company for the school, the GEO Foundation, and the school board decided iPads would make a good investment.

Lacy Sramek pretty much missed the social scene during her last two years of high school because she rarely was on campus.

She wasn’t skipping. She was in classrooms at Pikes Peak Community College.

At her recent high school commencement ceremony, she was handed an associate of arts degree from PPCC along with her high school diploma. And she didn’t have to pay a cent for tuition, books or fees.

“My parents are very excited,” said Sramek, who will start as a junior at Colorado State University in Fort Collins in the fall. “They only have to pay for two years.”

Ent Federal Credit Union selected Pikes Peak Prep as a recipient of its Youth Endowment Services (YES) grants for 2010. Introduced in 2000, the YES program directs specific support to organizations benefiting children and young people in the Pikes Peak Region and in and around Pueblo, Denver and Weld Counties. The program has provided total grants of nearly $475,000 to agencies serving education, health care, and cultural needs, among other services.

Pikes Peak Community College and the Pikes Peak Prep have signed a collaborative agreement establishing a first-of-its-kind partnership, allowing the charter school to rent and conduct classes at the PPCC Downtown Studio Campus.

Pikes Peak Prep is the first K-12 charter school in the country to have signed such an agreement with a college to begin a Middle College program.

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