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Merced County special education students to get 15 netbooks

Fifteen special education students in Merced County will get netbooks that are expected to significantly expand their instructional horizons, including access to the Internet.

Clearwire, a wireless high-speed Internet service provider, donated 20 new Samsung NP-NC10 netbooks to the Merced County Office of Education. Twelve students with physical disabilities and three in deaf and hard-of-hearing programs will be able to take the netbooks home and expand their research possibilities.

A netbook, about the size of an 8½-by-11-inch piece of paper, is a small, lightweight and inexpensive laptop computer. Students from second through 11th grades at schools in Los Banos, Dos Palos, Hilmar, Atwater, Merced and Planada are getting the netbooks, according to Susan Coston, assistant MCOE superintendent for special education.

"Considering the tough fiscal times, we are really appreciative of Clearwire's donation," Coston said.

The netbook donation is valued at about $20,000, including $10,000 for the netbooks and a corresponding amount for Internet services, according to a Clearwire spokesman.

Many of the physically challenged students are wheelchair-bound, Coston said, and the netbooks are light, mobile, durable and easy to use. Students who otherwise might not be able to access the Internet can take the netbooks home on long-term loan and type reports at home.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing students using the netbooks will be able to type with specialized software. Netbooks were introduced in late 2007 and are used worldwide by students.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at 385-2407 or