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Batavia School District plans to have computer devices for all students by 2018

BATAVIA – The Batavia School District is moving rapidly toward a learning environment that will put computer devices into the hands of all of its students by 2018.

Superintendent Christopher J. Dailey and Jeffrey McKinney, assistant principal at the high school, reported on the progress of the district’s “One to World Devices” project at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting at the Richmond Memorial Library.

“It’s the beginning of really revolutionizing the way kids learn at Batavia,” Dailey said.

The administrators provided a timeline built around the state’s Smart School Bond Act that calls for the district to develop and submit a Smart School Investment Plan for state approval by March 1. Successful completion of the plan would open the door for the district to receive $2 million to be used for infrastructure upgrades to facilitate the devices.

“The initial investment, which is funded by the state, is for infrastructure,” Dailey said. “The first phase will cost $800,000 to $900,000 and will update our buildings districtwide.”

Batavia’s plan is to equip high school students this fall and middle school students by the winter, and to follow up with John Kennedy Intermediate and Jackson Primary pupils in 2017-18.

McKinney, who also serves as the district’s information technology supervisor, said results of surveys sent to staff, parents and students overwhelmingly indicate the importance of technology in schools. But they also reveal that much work is needed to raise the “comfort level” of using it and the percentage of those who believe the school is doing a good job of using technology to heighten student achievement.

“Our intent is to enhance learning and make teachers more effective,” McKinney said, noting that professional development is an integral component of the project. “The primary purpose (of technology) is to learn things that can’t be learned without it.”

Dailey said the district has put much time into learning about what works and what doesn’t work. Administrators have visited about 15 districts in Western New York and researched various devices on the market. He noted that in the coming months, students will be asked to assist by taking part in a “Wi-Fi Challenge” to find the dead spots in the city.

The superintendent said the district has budgeted for the devices, which would be purchased through the Genesee Valley Board of Cooperative Educational Services. He said he likes HP Chromebooks because they are “sturdy.” He said teachers would be getting 14-inch models while students would receive 11-inch models.

“In the end, they will be perishable items for us since they cost less than textbooks,” he said.

McKinney said the devices will become part of the school district’s domain, which enables officials to control content and time of usage. He said the district is managing 120 Chromebooks now as part of a pilot program.

He said the devices will be ordered by the end of February, while infrastructure updates, logistics and the drafting of policies will continue through September.

In other action, the board:

• Appointed Rodney Brinkman, David Chua, Lynn Heintz, Cheryl Kowalik, Marcia Riley, Richard Seymour, Dawn Hunter and Jaime Sallome as “budget ambassadors” to assist school officials with the 2016-17 budget process that begins with committee meetings in February and ends with voting by the public May 17. All but Hunter and Sallome served in the same capacity last year.

• Heard an update from Dailey on the search for a new principal at the middle school to succeed Sandra Griffin, who announced that she will be retiring effective Oct. 31.

Dailey said that 38 people have applied for the position and that he expects a decision to be made, following a screening process and series of interviews, by March 15.

• Presented proclamations to Paul Pedersen and Stephani Hamilton for their efforts to utilize adaptive equipment to include children with special needs in general physical-education classes, and to Debra Wolff, Jackson Primary School kindergarten teacher, as the district’s Employee of the Month.