By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald
The Washington School Board started the discussion of replacing textbooks with computers Thursday.
The discussion was one of the more lively by the board recently as technology coordinator Todd Riker said the conversation should begin on using a one-to-one computer initiative where students would be using virtual textbooks instead of their paper alternative.
"We need to have a conversation sometime and this is a good time to do it," Riker said.
He elaborated this is the right time to talk about upgrades because the current technology infrastructure is deteriorating. Riker said in the next year, the school will have to replace outdated servers and desktop computers. In the past year, the school has had to replace 20 computers due to failing hardware.
Some of the desktops, Riker said, are over five years old and new software updates require newer computers. Also, the wireless internet in the high school needs upgraded "Students can now bring in their own devices and we cannot support all of them," Riker said.
One-to-one computing puts computers in students' hands and in many instances will use virtual textbooks and teacher-made curriculums instead of curriculums created by textbooks. Riker told the board to do this, planning would have to take place and would take over a year to get ready.
"We will not be ready this year," Riker said.
Some of the planning that would be discussed is what type of device would be used, and how that would be implemented in the classroom. For example, some schools use tablet computers like the iPad, while some go for the traditional notebook computer. Locally, North Daviess has been using the computers for years, while Shoals is starting the one-to-one computer program.
Also, costs would have to be discussed. State law allows schools to pass on 25 percent of the costs for the device to parents in place of textbook rentals. Riker said in the end, the computers would be cheaper for parents than regular textbooks.
The discussion brought questions from many board members, on what could be used and how the students may use a classroom computer.
No action was taken by the board Thursday, but discussion was stirred. Board member Peg Stephens said there needs to be "an immediate need plan and a long-term plan." Sequestration The board learned the start of the federal budget sequestration effects in local schools Thursday. Roach gave them a letter from the state Department of Education that said sequester cuts will begin this summer.
"Right now we will begin to see a 5 percent cut this summer," Roach said.
As to what funds will be cut, it is not totally certain, but federal Title I reading grants and special education grants will likely be affected.
To make up for the shortfall, Roach said, the school will have to use money from the general fund. Currently, special education is 40 percent underfunded, Roach said.
Roach informed the board a letter will be sent home to parents and a link will be posted on the schools website, www.wcs.k12.in.us, about a balanced calendar. A survey will also be available.
The calendar only has two months for summer vacation, but gives students and teachers additional weeks for fall break, holiday vacation and spring break.
Roach said the calendar is not year-round school.
He plans to visit PTO meetings in the spring to talk about the idea and gauge interest.
"We're just wanting to open the dialogue to the public," Roach said.
The board voted last month for the 2013-14 school calendar. It is a traditional calendar.
Before regular business, the board heard two presentations from high school groups.
The first was a medal presentation from members of the high school choir and teacher Scott Griffith. The choir group Accents finished seventh in state competition recently and will compete in state show choir competition later this month. This is the third year in a row the choir has made it to the state finals.
The WHS NJROTC and Engineering clubs also gave a presentation on their regional-winning SeaPerch submarines. The remote submarines will head to state competition in Huntingburg on April 6 and have a chance to compete in national competition in May.
The board accepted the retirement of Shirley English as a secretary at Veale Elementary, and the resignations of Chad Niehaus as junior high cross country coach and Leah Ellis as junior high English teacher.
The following extra-curricular appointments were accepted: Stephanie Ash, North Elementary volleyball coach; Lynsey Gress, Griffith Elementary volleyball coach; Tim Baxter, junior high boys track coach; Brittany Derr, junior high girls track coach; Meagan McPherson, varsity girls track coach; Kristen Allison, junior high girls assistant track coach; Beth Milton, Veale Elementary head cook; Steve Jones, junior high golf coach; and David Harman, high school assistant girls track coach.