WATERVILLE (AP) – For sale: more than 30,000 laptops. Gently used? Well, not exactly. But the price is hard to beat.

Maine’s seventh- and eighth-graders are getting new Apple laptop computers this fall. That leaves about 30,000 old Apple iBooks, and schools are being given the opportunity to purchase them at a bargain price of $48 apiece.

At that price, some school districts can’t resist paying to keep the old ones even though they’re getting new ones this fall.

More than 36,000 Apple iBooks were deployed to all 241 public middle schools in 2002 and 2003. The program is continuing with new laptops this fall, and high schools are being encouraged to buy into the program, as well.

Most schools are choosing to pay to keep the old laptops, although they’re under no obligation to do so, said Heather Hamlin of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, which launched the first-in-the-nation laptop initiative in 2002.

Waterville public schools, which has 364 iBooks at the Waterville Junior High School, has decided to keep the old computers.

“They are four years older, half of them, and a little slow,” Waterville technology director Stephen Smith said, “but they are still functional and for $48 apiece, they are a good investment.”

James Jurdak, business manager for Augusta Public Schools, agrees. “We think it is a good deal,” he said.

But educators are realistic about what they’re getting.

A three- to four-year-old laptop that has been used daily is bound to be in less than pristine condition, according to Dave Person, a technology specialist in Skowhegan-based SAD 54.

“It sounds like a great deal at $48 but these computers have been used hard,” he said.

Nonetheless, SAD 54 also has elected to purchase the laptops.

Schools are still trying to figure out what to do with the computers. One option is to offer them to families of students. Another possibility is to distribute them to other students in the school system.

Augusta public schools has opted to distribute the iBooks to the city’s four public elementary schools.

Person said he knows of parents and students who would like to buy the laptops. He said the school district already has a program for supplying old or donated computers to low-income families.

Information from: Morning Sentinel, http://www.onlinesentinel.com/