Your experience with laptops in your district will vary as opposed to others; it's highly dependent upon how the staff cares for them and how rowdy the students are. While I can agree they are in fact no replacement for desktops and not as durable, netbooks are at a price point that make them more of an attractive option. For $400 USD we were able to get Dell Latitude 2120 netbooks outfitted with Atom 550 processors, 2 GB RAM, 160GB HDD, Windows 7 Pro, three year hardware warranty, and one battery replacement. The cost of a standard Optiplex 780 with a comparable warranty sits at about $800 USD for us. As far as damage and theft is concerned, out of 540 total netbooks we have yet to have one stolen and we've had to replace six LCD screens due to damage in a span of a year and a half. And while I wouldn't run CS5 on them, they have more than enough horse power for web browsing and Microsoft Office.

Wireless congestion is probably the biggest headache though, and we have had our share of problems. We do have a full district wide wireless network with a central Cisco Wireless Control server. The absolute largest improvement you could make would be to disable all of the 802.11b data rates to force the clients to associate higher. Just one or two devices that associate at slow rates can bring an entire carts worth of netbooks to a screeching halt. After this change most of the congestion problems have been solved and students don't have too much of a problem with using them. Our very time sensitive VB login script also manages to map all of the shared drives and install the printers correctly on every login. If you don't have building wireless, then two access points bolted to the top of the cart should be more than enough.

I'm not advocating netbooks as a desktop replacement, but they are absolutely great for filling in the gaps, especially when space is a concern.