By JEROD CLAPP
After signing off on an agreement for nearly 9,000 computers at about $3 million, many students and staff in Greater Clark County Schools will start the 2013-14 school year with a computer in their hands.
The district’s board of trustees unanimously approved a series of measures that will bring a one-to-one computing initiative to all students in grades three through 12 in August.
Christina Gilkey, board president, said she’s glad to see one major portion of the district’s new strategic plan not only come to life, but in a bigger way than they directed.
“Just last month, we approved our strategic plan,” Gilkey said. “The No. 1 goal under our facilities and technology piece was to be equitable in our access to technology all across the board. And within a month, we’re not only doing that for grades six through 12 [as directed], but in grades three through 12.”
The four passed measures include a three-year lease agreement for more than $2.98 million for 8,700 Samsung Google Chromebook computers for students and staff, as well as the creation of an eLearning coach position for the district.
The fourth measure — the acceptance of the Innovation Grant to partially fund the initiative — was unanimously passed in a separate vote.
Amy Schellenberg, executive director for educational services, said parents will pay $11.50 for each student to use the computers at school and home, along with the existing $8.50 fee for technology curriculum. She said overall, though, textbook rental fees for elementary students have decreased by $20 for next year.
Brett Clark, director of information and education technology, said the computers will allow students and teachers to not only collaborate with each other in the classroom, but also across the district.
He said after considering iPads and Windows Surface tablets for the job, the Chromebook came out on top for a number of reasons, including overall cost and suitable functionality for teachers and students. But he also said setup and device management were primary concerns. He said before Google ships the devices, they are already tethered to a student account, simplifying setup for the district.
He said while teachers focus on teaching critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity already, the added technology will help them expand that.
“Those don’t come from a Chromebook, those come from our teachers,” Clark said. “Our teachers are already doing those four things, but this piece of technology will help give them greater access and a stronger ability to do those four things.”
He said as Google continues to expand applications operated in the cloud — offsite computer storage that doesn’t require the user’s hard drive space — students and teachers will be able to work on presentations, papers and class discussions in ways they’ve never done before.
But teachers will still get professional development on the devices and applications this summer. He said while students may pick up and run with the technology, he understands staff training is vital.
“There will be some mega-users that grab it and run,” Clark said. “Then there are the other ones we talked about on Wednesday about digital immigrants and it will take some more time for them. And that’s OK, we’re going to have time and patience.
“No one has to be an expert on Day 1, but what we want for everyone is everyone making progress.”
The district will fund the measures through an Innovations Grant, Title I funding where possible, the district’s capital projects fund, a Common School Fund Loan and revenue from selling the computers back at the end of the lease.
The vote for computers for staff, students, creation of the eLearning coach position and the approval of the Innovations Grant came in 6-0, with board member Kevin Satterly absent.
ONLINE REGISTRATION, COCA-COLA GET OK
• The board approved online registration for the whole district unanimously, allowing parents to sign up their children for school through the district’s website.
• Coca-Cola was selected as the district’s long-term beverage company. The company will donate $2,000 annually to the district’s education foundation, as well as provide $15,000 every year for marketing.
• The board approved a memorandum of understanding for lead custodial positions in schools with five or more custodial employees. Those positions aren’t considered managerial, but will direct custodial duties among those employees in a given building.