IPads will be a mandatory school supply for more than 1,000 students at a Winnipeg school division this coming school year.

The St. James Assiniboia School Division will be handing out iPads, free of charge, to all students in Grades 6 to 8 this fall as part of a pilot program.

The Apple tablets will replace textbooks and other printed classroom essentials, staff at George Waters Middle School explained to parents at a meeting Wednesday night.

"At this rate, textbooks, maps, encyclopedias and most printed material will likely be outdated by the time they reach our children's hands," principal Andrew Mead told parents.

Students can take their iPads home during the school year, and it will be the responsibility of parents to monitor what their children are doing with the devices.

'You need it'

Mead said the iPads are mandatory, meaning parents cannot opt their students out of the pilot program.

"The iPad will become the essential learning tool in the classroom, just as a basketball … would be to a basketball game. Got that? You need it," he said.

Officials say the school division is working on a plan for insurance in case the iPads become damaged while at home with students.

But some parents questioned how much technology is too much when it comes to their children, many of whom are already connected to the internet and video games at home.

"My kids at home, they're not engaged. They're in their rooms with these devices," said Tim Garrett.

Henry Sem, who will get an iPad when he starts Grade 6 in the fall, said he's looking forward to learning mathematics on his shiny new tablet.

However, he could not guarantee that he would not sneak in a little gaming from time to time.

Discuss iPad use with children, parents told

Mead told parents that the iPad project gives them an opportunity to discuss with their children the need to be a "responsible and ethical digital citizen."

He said parents should talk to their children about appropriate websites, downloads and programs, as well as set time limits for using the iPads at home.

Internet filtering capacities on the iPads will not be active at home, he said.

Parents are advised to create an Apple ID for the iPads so their children can download certain apps to be used in class and for school projects.

Families or children that already have Apple accounts can use those ones, they can use that one, parents were told.

It's up to the parent if they wish to share their own Apple ID passwords with their children. Mead said keeping the password from the child will give the parent greater control over what is being downloaded.

Mead told the parents the school division's IT department is not increasing its budget to include the iPads. The cost will be absorbed by replacing laptops and workstations that are currently in use at the schools, he said.

With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh