School District One moving forward with digital learning

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To purchase 7000 mobile devices

By David Meade

The Anderson School District One Board of Trustees heard a presentation on the benefits of digital learning before deciding to move ahead with a $7 million bond issue to purchase iPads for every student in the district along with related software and training that will be necessary.

Approximately $6 million of the bond issue will fund a mobile device initiative that will bring 7000 new mobile devices and related wireless upgrades, software and instruction to District One.

According to Superintendent David Havird, $3.9 million is needed to purchase iPads for every student in grades 3-12; $450,000 for wireless upgrades; $260,000 for storage/charging carts and lockers; $500,000 for mobile device management applications and software; $675,000 for professional development (instructional training) to make the program successful.

The funding will allow $215,000 for contingency, he said.

An additional $1 million will be used for other purposes including: $175,000 for safety and security, $300,000 for roof repairs at Wren; and $525,000 for a second practice field at Powdersville High School and some improvements to the athletic field at Palmetto High and a new PA system at Wren High Studium.

The District already has a limited number of iPads available to teachers and students in each of the District One Schools.

During the presentation preceding the vote, two teachers and a librarian gave information on how iPads are already being used.

Hope Meares, Kindergarten teacher at Palmetto Elementary School read several statement from students on what they liked about using the iPads. “The kids love it and understand the technology,’”she said.

Powdersville Middle Librarian Monique German said the iPads are being used for pro professional development and small group learning. “It is really exciting for middle school teachers,” she said.

Wren High School US History teacher Larry Clark said that some of the teachers were reluctant to use the iPads in the classroom at first but when they started they found that they were a way to connect with students. “A lot of districts are behind (on technology) Clark said. “I think we are at the forefront.”

According to information in the presentation, benefits of the initiative include:

Schools with one to one digital initiative outperformed non 1:1 schools on academic measures.

Students acquired more high order reasoning and critical analysis skills; Greater student/teacher collaboration on instructional tasks; More project based learning activities; Students are more engaged in learning and students are better prepared for college and career readiness.

There is also a reduction in disciplinary actions, a decrease in dropout rates and better attendance, Havird said.

After explaining the expenses associated with the mobile device learning initiative, Havird explained funding.

According to Havird, current debt service millage for the District during 2014 is 43 mills. The current value of a mill is $173,600.

District One is planning to increase millage by 6.7 in 2015 and 2016 to 49.7 . During the next three years the millage will drop slightly to 47.9 in 2017, 48 in 2018 and 47.9 in 2019.

For taxpayers this means persons with an owner-occupied home assessed at $100,000 will pay an extra $26.80 per year.

Non-owner occupied home or commercial property with an assessed valued of $50,000 will pay an extra $20.10.

Persons with a vehicle valued at $20,000 will be an extra $8.04.

Havird also explained how he thought the district could continue the digital initiative when the technology and devices need upgrading in 3-5 years.

According to Havird, the bond issue could be reassessed; the new State K-12 Technology Initiative will bring in approximately $29.2 million; and Federal Title I, II, III and IDEA funds could be used. Havird said the district currently uses the federal funding entirely for personnel but may begin to use some of it for technology.

He also stated the proposed local option sales tax which will most likely be on a referendum later this year would be used.

Havird said with additional reliance on digital learning, eventually there should be savings on the cost of copying and printing.

Havird also presented information on the increased use of cell and smart phones and web access with them and the resulting decline in the use of laptops and desktops. One stat states that by 2017, eighty-seven percent of all connected devices will be mobile.

“This digital initiative is truly an investment in our students’ futures, not an expense,” Havird said.

Board member David Merritt said students entering colleges and universities need the access and training on the use of mobile devices. “I feel very stongly about this,” he said.

Merritt also asked if the program could be expanded to offer more personalized education such as a specific language for a small number of students.

Havird stated that the topic was discussed in a recent staff meeting and that the natural transformation is toward a virtual classroom, but it would be further down the road.

The board also approved second reading on four policy changes and personnel for 2014-15.