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WACS students may soon have own laptops

May 17, 2017
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

Every student in grades 5 through 12 at Westfield Academy and Central School could have a Dell 3189 laptop by the spring of 2019, purchased with funds from the smart School Bond Act, Board of Education members learned at their meeting on May 8.

Seventh-grade science teacher Molly Anderson, and technology coordinator, Lynn Manzella gave the board a presentation on Westfield's Smart Schools Investment Plan. The two explained the proposed allocation the $802,428 that the district will receive from the SSBA, which was passed in 2014.

According to the NYSED, the Smart Schools bond Act is intended to "finance educational technology and infrastructure, provide students access to the latest technology and connectivity needed to compete in the global economy."

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Lynn Manzella and Molly Anderson speak to the WACS board of Education about the Smart Schools program.

Anderson and Manzella told board members that, if approved, $588,000 would be allocated over the next 4 years to purchase touch screen computers with cases and peripherals for students, and to buy device charging and storage carts.

Manzella noted that the plan allows for changes and adjustments.

"After we re-evaluate the technical health of the district, we will decide how to use the remaining $214,000," she said.

Manzella explained that students will turn in their laptops at the end of the school year. The devices will be re-imaged and then the same laptop will be returned to each student with the new year.

"The students will have ownership. They can say, 'This is my laptop for 4 years,'" Anderson said.

The $588,000 would also be used to provide interactive Smart boards and projectors, and to purchase five devices for each classroom in the elementary wing, she said.

Manzella said that the district would have to put in the first $125,000, which would then be reimbursed by the state. The first allocation will be used to purchase laptops for 7th and 10th grade students, which should be available for the 2017-2018 school year, Manzella said.

This would be followed by devices for students in 8th and 9th grades in the spring, Manzella said.

"By the spring of 2019, every student in grades 5 through 12 should have a new device, she added.

"Once the seniors graduate, their devices can be funneled into the elementary classrooms, to be used only as instructional tools," Anderson said.

Although the computers will be funded by the state, the short- and long-term responsibilities of the district in regard to them would include professional development for faculty members, increased technology support, sustainability beyond the funding period, maintenance of the network infrastructure, and device preparation and roll-out with contracts for students, Manzella said.

"We're adding many devices in a short period of time," Manzella said. "We have wireless access throughout the entire building and our faculty is ready for this."

Anderson noted that faculty members are very excited about the devices and about opportunities for professional development.

"We have some teachers who are currently paperless," she added.

Board member Wendy Dyment noted that, "There have to be controls so the students cannot download whatever they want onto their devices."

She also told board members that not every student is going to pick up the use of the new devices quickly.

"You can't expect everybody to get 100 percent committed on Day 1," she said.

In another matter, Anderson raised the topic of a WACS garden.

"We applied for a Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation Service Grant," Anderson said. "These grants are for projects that demonstrate a definite benefit to the Chautauqua region."

"We want to start a community garden with the kids," Anderson told the board. "Everything has started to germinate in the classroom windows and we're talking about a good spot for the garden. We've discussed raised beds, pallet gardens and other ideas.

"So we want to know, Will it be okay to plant vegetables here, or should we have the kids take the plants home?"

Board members offered support for a WACS garden at the school.

"If you need pallets, I have hundreds available," Board President Steve Cockram said.



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