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Schools to get wireless connection

In just a few months, Yellow Springs students and teachers will join the mobile world with new wireless access to the Internet from anywhere in the schools. The Yellow Springs school board approved a policy at the board meeting Thursday, Nov. 10, that permits members of the school community to access the district’s “public” wireless network through their personal electronic devices.

Technology will play a key role in connecting the district to its academic resources, according to Superintendent Mario Basora at the meeting. As the district works toward the goals of its Class of 2020 Initiative, facilitating access to information will be critical to creating the collaborative, problem-based, project-oriented educational program the local district is aiming for, he said.

“I firmly believe that technological literacy is a civil right, and the need for it will only increase as the acquisition of information becomes more and more critical to people’s survival and success,” Basora said. “It’s incumbent upon us as educators to focus on this and prepare our students.”

The district’s wireless network is expected to be up and running for instructional purposes in all three school buildings, including Mills Lawn, McKinney Middle and Yellow Springs High School, by January. In the coming months, the board plans to discuss how the network should be utilized by students, many of whom own a host of wireless devices, including laptops, netbooks and cell phones. Board member Angela Wright voiced concern that students would have access to the Internet’s public domain during the school day. But the district’s current filters, which some believe are already too restrictive, according to Basora, will continue to prevent access to Web content the schools deem inappropriate.

In March the district plans to purchase all new laptops for teachers to replace their current computers, most of which are desktops between five and 10 years old. Teachers can then begin experimenting with how to use the wireless access to enhance instruction, which will become even more flexible if the district decides to transition to a 1:1 student/computer ratio with individual laptops for each student, Basora said.

Currently, students use the two computer labs at Mills Lawn and the three labs at the high school for their needs. Most classrooms have a few additional computers that can serve a few students at a time. But if the district were to provide students with their own laptops, Basora suggested that the computers could be acquired through a lease-to-purchase program for one class each year, starting with the seventh-grade class and working up to the seniors.

The district typically spends approximately $50,000 a year of permanent improvement levy funds on purchases for new technology. According to Treasurer Dawn Weller, this year the district used its tech budget to install the wireless capacity for about $70,000. Next year the district will use between $35,000 and $45,000 to upgrade to laptops for the teachers. And the following year, there could be funds to help start purchasing laptops for students, Basora said.

Eventually, open source information from the Internet could entirely replace textbooks, which cost an average of $25,000 per edition to replace every five to 10 years. Currently, the district is discussing the possibility of having students use cloud applications in Google to read, write, research and collaborate without the need to purchase another new textbook, Basora said. The district could use open source courseware, such as the customizable, free, curriculum-aligned content for grades K-12 created by the CK-12 Foundation (ck-12.org.).

The Bring Your Own Technology Committee (BYOT) at YSHS, which includes students, teachers and administrators, has met several times to plan the transition to public wireless access for students. The students are interested in figuring out how to integrate technology into the curriculum, said Basora, who is particularly excited about empowering students by giving them the tools they need to find the answers to the kinds of questions they are interested in knowing. “Kids are excited to use what they have in a way that makes sense, to enhance student learning and collaboration,” Basora said. “And technology will play an important role to empower kids to be leaders in the future,” he said.

In other school board business:

• YSHS Principal Tim Krier reported that YSHS can now offer up to nine hours of dual enrollment college credit through Clark State Community College for AP U.S. history, English 11 and AP English courses taken at the high school with teachers Shawn Jackson, Desirée Nickel and Elizabeth Lutz. The school already offers dual enrollment through Sinclair Community College for Spanish and French IV.

• Craig Conrad, who serves as both the maintenance supervisor and the custodial supervisor for the district gave notice of his retirement from his positions, effective January 27, 2012. He has served the district for 27 years.

• The board approved as substitute teachers Alban Holyoke, Laura Skidmore, Lillian Slaughter, Tracy Stewart, Rebecca Fitch, Jane Jako and Faith Skidmore, who will be compensated at $80 per day.

• The board approved co-curricular contracts for Brad Benning and Craig McCann as the seventh-grade and eighth-grade boys basketball coaches, compensated at $1,259 each. Brad Newsome was approved as head boys basketball coach at a stipend of $4,294, with Greg Felder as a volunteer assistant coach. Evin Wimberly was approved as the seventh and eighth grade girls basketball coach at a stipend of $1,888.

• The board accepted an anonymous donation of $7,000 for the Class of 2020 Initiative.

• The board unanimously approved a resolution opposing House Bill 136, which would grant vouchers to any public school student for private school tuition, thereby allowing the transfer of public dollars to private education.

• School administrator contracts were modified to include monthly cell phone reimbursements in the amount of $80 each for the superintendent and treasurer, and $50 each for the two principals, the athletic director and the special ed supervisor.

• The next school board meeting scheduled for Dec. 8 will be held at 5 p.m., to accommodate a post-meeting dinner to welcome newly elected board members.

 

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