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School board will be deciding soon whether to continue high school laptop program PDF Print E-mail

By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican

    Based on a student survey, Chase County High School students would like to see the one-to-one laptop program continue.
    As the school nears the end of the laptops’ three-year lease, school board members will be deciding soon on continuation of the program, said Board President Sheila Stromberger.
    At the Feb. 10 school board meeting, Scott Lakey, a senior and student representative on the board, presented results from a student survey he conducted on the laptop program.
    From 106 surveys he compiled in grades 9-12, Lakey said 84 percent of high school students felt the program should continue.
    A big concern of students who want the program to continue, however, is the slow Internet at the school. That was also the No. 1 reason why 16% of students were against continuing the program, according to his results.
    Lakey noted one “straight A” student commented the laptops are a distraction in class, as other students play games on them.
    The survey indicated students also see additional benefits of having laptops for other uses than the classroom. They are being used for FFA, college applications and scholarship applications. Those considering the new 5th Year Career Academy program felt a laptop would be vital to take part.
    Other results show six of eight teachers are using the computers in their classrooms at least three times a week.
    The board will be discussing continuation of the program more in-depth at its retreat on March 4. Stromberger said she’s hoping for a more clear direction after that retreat, and is aware of the concerns that some board members have.
    A big one is the slow Internet service.
    “We’re waiting for some answers from the ESU” on the Internet service, she said. They are supposed to be making improvements to the service to CCS. Great Plains has also added an additional feed, but there hasn’t been a lot of difference seen yet, she said.
    Board members have expressed concern about the effect the Internet service, or lack of it, has on instruction time.
    Stromberger added, “It’s not just that it’s slow. Sometimes it’s not there at all.”
    That ends up with a lot of wasted class time when a teacher has prepared a lesson on the laptop, and then there’s no Internet, she said.
    Chase County Schools started the one-to-one laptop program in the 2006-07 school year, and purchased the computers on a three-year lease.
Reading program
    Another report on curriculum was given at the Feb. 10 meeting by some of the teaching staff.
    Angie Dickey presented scores from three different reading/comprehension tests given to elementary students at Chase County Schools, noting scores are not as strong as they should be.
    “Our scores are not the bottom of the barrel, but we can do better,” Dickey said.
    “We want to be above average, not just average,” she said.
    A number of issues could be contributing to lower scores than teachers would like, Dickey said.
    It could be home life, the student having a bad day “or they just bombed it,” she said.
    However, much of the staff believes the inconsistencies of the reading programs used in the different grade levels could be a big reason.
    The school is looking into investing in one common reading program series for all elementary grades.
    Staff has also been traveling to Gering to observe the “direct instruction” program used there. Gering students have shown marked improvement in reading and comprehension there since the program’s been in use. Gering also uses one common reading curriculum in the elementary grades.

Other school board business

  • Chase County Schools has contracted for the Alert Now rapid message delivery system, according to Supt. Matt Fisher. The system will be used to contact parents and others with emergency messages, such as a school lock-down or cancellation of classes. The message can be received by phone, email or text. There wasn’t a timeline given when the system will be in use.
  • Interest has been expressed from a church in Grant in purchasing the old bleachers on the stage in the Wellington gym, Supt. Fisher told board members. The school had advertised two years ago to sell them and had no takers. Board members directed Fisher to negotiate a price with the church members, who will also remove them. The cleared stage area will be used for additional storage.
  • CBS Constructors of McCook had completed the alterations to the visitor side bleachers at the new football field, reported Supt. Fisher. There was no report on progress with the football field lights.
  • Several education bills in the state legislature were reviewed by Supt. Fisher. LB 64 has passed, he said, which moved the certification date for state aid from Feb. 1 to April 1. That’s when schools learn what their state aid will be for the following year. LB 255 would require seat belts on school busses, which Fisher said he opposes. The Governor has also said he won’t sign LB 255 if it passes because it’s an unfunded mandate. Another bill of concern is LB 228, which would allow high school students to compete in a club sport program during the same high school season for that sport. Fisher said that bill has far-reaching ramifications, one of which could result in different coaching philosophies and possible conflicts between the high school coach and the club coach.