PADUCAH, Ky. —- Teachers and administrators are praising a program that assigns laptop computers to students at three McCracken County high schools.

The program is going so well, students could be accessing textbooks and other learning materials on the Internet, eliminating hard-bound textbooks, school board chairman Neil Archer said.

Online textbooks will be used for some next year, he said. Students at three high schools — Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland — received Apple laptops after the county acquired 2,000.

A review by two consultants of the laptop program called the results in its first year “amazing.”

“You have done so much in such a short period of time,” Jim Wenzloff and Thomas Daccord of November Learning consultants wrote in a review of the program. “During our visit in early March we saw outstanding teaching and learning that took advantage of the new computers.”

Archer said online learning materials would replace printed textbooks that are expensive to buy and in some classes are out of date in less than a year.

“If the textbooks are on the computer, they can be updated immediately and students will never be behind waiting for the next printed volume,” Archer said.

The program cost the county $600,000 a year for four years, and includes insurance and maintenance contracts, Superintendent Tim Heller said.

The consultants’ report found that teachers said they could tolerate the change and related problems because the computer program was good for the students, and students were positive and enthusiastic about using computers for assignments.

“We have visited other high schools where the students didn’t want to carry the laptops because the students hardly ever used them in their classes,” the consultants said. “That was not the case at the three McCracken County high schools.”

Lone Oak Principal Brian Harper said homework improved because students with questions were able to communicate with teachers, even after school hours.

The computers were returned earlier this month. Underclassmen will get the same computer next year.

Of the 2,170 computers purchased last summer, eight were lost or stolen and 19 suffered damage or problems — primarily cracked screens — that couldn’t be repaired, said Heath Cartwright, technology director for the school system.