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Manchester school improvement priorities reviewed tonight

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 16. 2012 10:04PM

MANCHESTER - The city's Fiscal Year 2014 Capital Improvements Plan entries will be reviewed tonight at a special meeting of the Board of School Committee.

Tonight's session gets underway at 7 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall.

The main reason for tonight's meeting is to approve the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) list of school building projects. The CIP Priority List was originally presented to board members on December 10, but the matter was tabled to allow Superintendent of Schools Tom Brennan time to answer questions regarding whether the city is in line to receive state aid. There was talk of bonding for more projects, money saved through the district's energy efficiency program had saved a bunch of money.

"The list will be reviewed Monday night, but I hope the board is prepared to move forward on this regardless of what the report from the superintendent is," said Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.

Some highlights of the CIP list include a new facility to meet capacity for preschool students (estimated at $5.4 million if a building is purchased, $8 million if a facility is built), $1 million to repair most school parking lots and lane striping, painting the exterior and interiors at all district schools, and a multiple school roof replacement program.

Board members are also expected to approve tonight a pilot Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) program for the Webster School.

The BYOD pilot program integrates technology with classroom instruction. Students can bring their devices from home to use at school. Devices include laptops, tablets, iPads, smartphones, Kindles, Nooks and other devices with internet access.

The district is exploring ways to promote a shift from an instructional teacher-based environment to a more collaborative, student-centered environment. Throughout the program, students and teachers will assess how technology can be used as an aid in the classroom and share feedback.

According to the district's BYOD policy, access to the school district's wireless network is filtered in compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act. Use of personal devices, during the school day, is at the discretion of teachers and staff. The primary use of the devices should be for educational purposes and not disrupt classes.

At the end of the pilot program, teachers and administrators participating in the pilot will gather data and determine their next step.

"I think this type of program is a good way to bring available technology into the classroom," said Brennan. "I'm excited to see it move forward. I look forward to reading about the results of the program down the road."

"I expect it will be approved, and it will be interesting to see the results," said Gatsas. "I think the Webster is a good school to try this out in, because students there may have more access to some of these devices than other schools do."

Despite mixed opinions on several elements of its BYOD pilot program, Hooksett school administrators voted in September to move the program forward. After a one-year pilot program, the board approved the BYOD program for all grades for the current school year. The full program has been ongoing since October 1.

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