USD 410 continues pursuit of computers for all students

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
To be keep Unified School District 410 students anywhere close to being cutting edge with technology will require strategic planning, staff training and plenty of dollars.

That’s the message Superintendent Gordon Mohn conveyed to the USD 410 Board of Education at its Monday night meeting.

Mohn said the district is in the process of developing a plan for acquiring notebook computers with the long-term goal of providing one for every student in grades six through 12.

Currently, Hillsboro Middle School teachers who completed the “Teach to the Future” program last summer are incorporating laptop computers in their classrooms.

“We think our experience with the middle school (mobile computer) has been positive,” said Corey Burton, Hillsboro Middle School principal.

According to Mohn, school districts such as Smoky Valley that are integrating computer technology into classroom teaching report positive results for student learning.

Mohn presented a timeline for meeting the district’s computer needs with several acquisition scenarios that used one of two approaches-an outright purchase or an annual lease-purchase agreement.

Mohn said the district’s budget would be in good shape until 2007-08 if it adopted the full use of a lease-purchase option.

“I don’t know if I’m quite ready to get into this ‘laptop-for-every-kid’ world,” Mohn said.

An alternate scenario would adopt the lease-purchase option to fund computer mobile units for the three buildings.

The third approach would be an outright purchase of the computers.

The projected outright purchase of the entire plan would be $685,272. The lease-purchase would add 5.54 percent or $40,200 to the total cost, but it would cover expenses related to technical support.

The board considered implications of purchasing laptop computers for all students including added costs and concerns about upkeep, software costs, security and technical support.

After much discussion, the board decided to approve the leadership team’s recommendation to pursue the lease-purchase of computers and to request that a purchase proposal be presented for consideration at the April board meeting.

Mohn also reviewed projections that probably will result in underspending $32,000 of this year’s budget.

Last year, the budget was underspent by about $200,000, he said.

The board also discussed four configuration options for kindergarten, including all-day sessions for those students who need additional assistance in reading, and a combination of half-day and/or all-day sessions.

“We’re leaning toward not adding staff (for kindergarten) next year,” Mohn said, indicating that the district would not offer full-day sessions for all kindergarten students.

At its next meeting, the board will reconsider the options for kindergarten as well as the school calendar for the 2005-06 school year.

Activities director Max Heinrich took the board members to the weight room to show them new equipment purchased recently with a majority of the funding donated by Trojan Booster Club.

“The kids are fired up,” he said about the new equipment.

The additional equipment will enable weight-lifting classes to increase by about six students in both the girls’ and boys’ classes.

In other business, the board:

— approved putting several policy revisions developed by the Kansas Association of School Boards on the agenda for the next regularly scheduled board meeting.

These policies address bonding for school employees, compliance regarding salary deductions and work schedules for employees, and supervision of medication for students in school settings.

— approved a change in the Hillsboro High School student handbook concerning the acceptance of student work after an absence.

The revised policy states that “students that are absent from class will have a maximum of one week from the date of the absence to complete and submit required assignments, homework, and to take any missed test(s) for full credit.”

This revision helps to clarify the make-up work policy for both students and teachers, principal Dale Honeck said.

— authorized the superintendent to purchase a used pickup for the maintenance department from Irv Schroeder County Motors.

The cost of the pickup must be under $20,000 and meet preferences that were presented to the board.

— approved payment of bills totaling more than $124,700.

— went into executive sessions for the purpose of discussing non-elected personnel and for the purpose of discussing matters related to negotiations.

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