LAURINBURG — Scotland County schools is moving forward with integrating technology into its classrooms by purchasing laptops for the districts teachers and 1,720 high school students by the beginning of next school year.
Kevin Combs, director of instructional technology, and Rick DeLaunay, director of administrative technology for Scotland County Schools, presented the Board of Education with an update on the technology plan Monday during the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
The plan that the district has been testing is called one-to-world, which focuses on providing each student with a laptop so that they can learn in their own way and move away from the one-size-fits-all education model.
“We are going to take the traditional instructional model that we have and transition it to the digital-learning model,” said Combs “We want to start giving the responsibility of learning back to the student, we give them more personalized opportunities to learn.”
Combs said the first milestone the project needs to hit is being able to purchase and distribute the laptops to high school teachers and students with an emphasis on being able to sustain the program. After equipping the high school students and teachers with laptops, the middle school will follow in 2018 and then students and teachers in grades 3-5 at the elementary would receive their computers at the beginning of the 2019 school year.
The board members all agreed that if the district can’t find the money to sustain the program to purchase all the student laptops, then purchasing $38,000 worth of teacher laptops would be a waste.
Chief Finance Officer Jay Toland said the board has already budgeted the purchase of the teacher machines, which will be brought to the board next month for approval. The program will cost the district between $300,000 and $400,000 each year. Finding long-term financing for the program was something board members were concerned about.
The schools will repurchase all the laptops every four years. The discarded laptops will be liquidated and taken away by a recovery company, so they can be sold off. DeLaunay said because the school is only paying around $200 per machine they district won’t get much, if any, money for the laptops four years from now.
Toland presented the board with several different ways the project could be financed, including: asking the county to give the district some of the revenue from the sales tax, investing the money the schools already receive for Title I, use the consolidation savings or do a fund balance appropriation.
Scotland County schools currently gets $3.2 million for Title I each year, that is divided among the 10 schools to be used however each principal sees fit. Toland said if the board makes the one-to-world program a district initiative then they could take the money from Title I before it gets distributed to the schools.
Board members felt Title I would be the best way to sustain the program, but wanted to make sure the principals at each of the schools were on board before making a final decision.
The other concern some of the board members had was those students that don’t have internet access at home being able to complete their schoolwork.
“School work can be loaded onto the machine before the students heads home for the day,” said DeLaunay. “They can do the work, they might not be able to submit it to the teacher if they don’t have internet at home, but once they come back to the school it will be submitted automatically.”
DeLaunay said the schools have also equipped 10 buses with wi-fi to allow students internet access on their rides home. The goal of the program is to get internet on enough of the school buses that they can be placed strategically around the county to provide as many students as possible with internet access.
In other business, the board also discussed:
— Carver Middle School was randomly selected by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to participate in the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The survey will be administered between by April to a random group of students. Parents will be receiving a letter from the school about the survey and can choose to have their child opt in or out of the survey. Questions on the survey range from how many hours of TV a child watches to if they’ve ever been sexually active.
— An update was given on the pricing for expanding the student pick-up lanes at Laurel Hill, Carver Middle School and Sycamore Lane. Expanding the pick-up lanes at Laurel Hill and Sycamore Lane would be included in the price of consolidation, adding a double lane to Carver Middle School would cost around $180,000.
— The board is looking into potentially changing their policy on background checks when hiring employees. Since finding qualified teachers and other school personnel is proving to be difficult, the board is considering forgiving some convictions that might appear in a persons background check. Felony convictions, misdemeanor violent offenses, drug charges or a history of recurring convictions will remain disqualifying factors.
— The district has mapped out the selection process for teacher assistants who are interested in going back to school to get their teaching certificate. Up to five TAs will be selected and receive up to $4,500 to go back to school. The three requirements from the state are that the TAs must be employed in the Scotland County school district, be enrolled in college and be a resident of North Carolina.
— The final item the board acted on was creating a resolution to petition the General Assembly to rethink the K-3 class size allotments. The state is looking to create smaller class sizes, which would require the district to hire at least 20 more teachers. The resolution was unanimously approved by the board.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.