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School board discusses technological innovation

The Rowan-Salisbury school board met Wednesday to clarify any unanswered questions regarding the district’s digital conversion plan, which seeks to put digital devices in the hands of every third through 12th grader in the district.
Although the board passed a motion to approve the plan and the lease that came along with it during their May 5 meeting, several board members felt they still had too many unanswered questions.
So, a meeting was scheduled to further delve into financing the project and exploring how the devices will be used in the classroom.
Although district technology leaders projected the cost of the lease to be $12 million over the next three years, the district has been able to collect additional leftover funds from other areas to be able to cover some of the devices, dropping the price down to roughly $10 million, according to district Chief Financial Officer Tara Trexler.
Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody stressed that the district was not asking for any additional funding for technology.
“We’ve been spending similar money on technology in our district for years and years,” she said.
Trexler said the district will “recapture and relocate” funds to help offset the cost as well.
For example, the district spends $600,000 each year on textbooks and $250,000 for school copier allocations, just two of the funding avenues that will be moved to funding the one-to-one initiative.
Apple has offered a lease with 0 percent interest to the district, and each fiscal year, the school has the opportunity to terminate the lease if need be.
“It seems pretty normal for the type of lease,” said Chairman of the Board Dr. Richard Miller.
County commissioners will hear the school board’s request to approve the funding switch on Friday.
The school board also observed mock lessons using the devices on the elementary, middle and high school levels.
“We want students to power up in a classroom, rather than power down,” said Rowan-Salisbury Director of Digital Innovation Andrew Smith.
Smith demonstrated how he used “Life on Earth” and other iBooks in his 21st century biology class.
“This book is different than a regular textbook,” he said.
Smith pointed out how the iBooks used “bright, vibrant colors,” three-dimensional models, interactive pages and text to voice capabilities.
In addition, he said, that particular text book would cost only $2.90 per student.
Three kindergarten students and their teacher showed how they use iPads in their classroom as well.
Robin McElhannon, assistant principal at Corriher-Lipe Middle School and former fifth and sixth grade teacher, shared about her experience teaching in a primarily special needs one-to-one classroom.
“I can prove to you that it works. I’ve seen it,” she said, as she explained how the students in her classroom were able to express themselves more effectively using technology than on their own.
School board member Josh Wagner said Wednesday’s meeting was helped put his “mind at ease” about the one-to-one program and the lease associated with it.
The biggest thing was “seeing the information compiled,” he said.

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