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School Board Discusses K-12 Technology Initiative

By Staff | Jan 20, 2011

Increasing student use of technology was among the topics of discussion during the Jan. 17, meeting of the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education. The board specifically learned about a one-to-one laptop computer program for grades 9-12 and an effort to provide a cart of 30 laptops for each grade K-8.

“Right now, this is just a little background on what we’re thinking,” said Principal Jay Jurrens. “Decision time will come around budgeting time in March when we’ll have to decide how we’ll fund it.”

Jurrens explained that the program essentially gives students the opportunity to learn where it’s best for them.

“Students all learn in different ways at different abilities,” said Jurrens. “This program will allow them to learn and access information beyond the walls of the school. This isn’t about one-to-one laptops necessarily. This is about the learning that takes place with technology as tools.”

He noted that the school district has been working for the last three to four years on becoming ready for advancing technology by implementing a wireless network, using projectors in nearly all classrooms, purchasing additional mobile carts, undergoing technology training for teachers, and participating in trials of different types of technology, like blended instruction and Palm PDA.

“This year we’ve been having ‘Technology Tuesdays’ where teachers come in on Tuesdays after school to learn new technology skills,” Jurrens explained. “We’ve also been working on ‘Technology Integration Mentors,’ which is about training people here in the building who then can help out when other faculty members have a problem or question related to technology.”

There is also discussion of creating a student-manned help desk during special periods for those experiencing computer-related and other technology difficulties during school hours.

Jurrens shared that the proposal involves providing one laptop per student in grades 9-12 and one laptop cart per grades K-8 during the 2011-2012 school year. During the 2012-2013 school year, the one-to-one laptop program would expand to students in grades 7-8.

“Within two years we’d like to have a 7-12 one-to-one program,” said Jurrens. “We’d replace the laptops after four years and charge the students a nominal fee to keep the laptop at the end of four years.”

Accident insurance would also be purchased a sliding scale for deductibles.

Jurrens said, “This hopefully will take care of anyone who thinks they can get a new laptop if they break their old one. They’re going to have to pay a deductible for any damage.”

He noted that it is the district’s hope that students will become increasingly engaged in learning. Students will be able to access outside resources and bring the world into the classroom. Also, those students without access to technology at home will now have access through the school.

“The students are ready for this, they’re just waiting for us to catch up,” Jurrens said.

Jurrens estimates that the initial project (laptops for 9-12 and laptop carts for K-8) for the 2011-2012 school year will cost approximately $300,500. Around $57,000 of this amount would involve upgrading the district’s current infrastructure to handle an increase in wireless devices-this is one of the grant requests that the district has made to Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation. In 2011-2012, the cost of expanding laptops to grades 7-8 would cost an additional $89,000.

With the cycling out of old laptops and bringing in new ones every four years, the district is considering a cost of $82,000 per year to maintain the program.

“My suggestion to pay for this would be to do the board-approved 33-cent Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL), which is something that we currently do not levy for,” said Jurrens. “This is a tax increase and would generate about $90,000 per year. We’re probably one of the few districts in the state that doesn’t levy for this tax. The purpose tonight is to give the board a chance to think about this before we get to figuring the budget.”

In other business, the board approved the resignation of Jennifer Klingbeil as school nurse and health teacher effective at the end of the current school year.

Board members also gave their approval for FFA students to travel out-of-state on Saturday, Jan. 29, to the Sioux Empire Cattle Show in Sioux Falls, S.D.