Board is 'prepared to move forward' on technology equipment

Technology director Fayette Adams and Stephen Rizzo, district chief academic officer, display the Chromebooks shown to the board of education Tuesday evening. The white touch unit is for prekindergarten and first-grade students, while the non-touch unit held by Rizzo is for students in grades three through high school.

      The Mansfield City Schools Board of Education may act on Nov. 19 to approve the purchase of several hundred thousand dollars of technology equipment, including enough additional Chromebooks to assure that every student in prekindergarten through high school has one to use during the school day.

      The board heard a presentation Tuesday evening from Stephen Rizzo, chief academic officer, and Fayette Adams, City Mills technology director.

      The discussion was initiated by Superintendent Stan Jefferson, who said, “One of our goals from the beginning is academic rigor. Technology is the key to that.”

      Jefferson has recommended that all students have their own Chromebooks, which are laptop-type computers capable of containing textbooks, supplemental material, videos and lesson assignments.

      “Our goal is to close the gap in digital access across the district,” Rizzo said. “Instead of taking three years, we are asking you to take a big step and close the gap this school year.”

      Adams said there are 1,700 Chromebooks currently in use in the district, most on 30-unit carts shared among classrooms. In order for every student to have one, she said an additional 565 touch Chromebooks would be needed for children in prekindergarten and first grade, as well as 1,075 more non-touch Chromebooks for grades three through 12.

      Also, 174 interactive LCD panels – large display screens – would be needed for classrooms to supplement the 39 already in use.

      Kindergarten teacher Jamie Zellner and third-grade teacher April Luedy demonstrated how they use Chromebooks and the LCD panels, emphasizing how easy it is for children to use them during lessons.

      Rizzo said the Chromebooks would remain in the schools during the second semester, but added that policies and procedures could be developed to allow students to take them home in the fall of 2020.

      Board members expressed their support.

      “This is huge. We can see where this is needed,” said board president Renda Cline. “To close the achievement gap, this is needed. We are prepared to move forward. Price is a concern. The discussion is how we can finance it.”

      Board member Judy Forney noted that having Chromebooks for middle- and high-school students would eliminate the need to carry several textbooks because the text could be loaded into the computer.

      If the purchases are made, board member Gary Feagin said training will be critical for staff not familiar with use of the Chromebooks or the interactive LCD panels.

      Board member Chris Elkwick’s request for budgetary information led a decision to have treasurer Robert Kuehnle develop five possible funding options for purchase of the Chromebooks and the LCD panels and to pay an outside contractor for installation of the panels. Installation will be subject to bidding.

      Kuehnle will outline the funding options – which include various elements of the general fund, permanent improvement fund and money set aside for replacement of the Arlin Field turf – at the board’s regular meeting on Nov. 19.

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