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Hillside School fourth-graders from left, Elija Gilcris, Kyra Woodward, Mickailey Walsh, Kelly McCormick and Colten Lapointe work in class. Berlin school officials are asking the city for $150,000 in the next budget for computers. (COURTESY)

Berlin kids, technology add up

BERLIN - Berlin school officials are launching an ambitious plan they hope will provide the city's students with the latest in computer equipment on an ongoing basis.

Corinne Cascadden, superintendent of School Administrative Unit 3, is spearheading the effort that will require city council approval for $150,000 in the first year of the proposal. She acknowledged Thursday that it's not a small undertaking, considering that city council support will be required to ask taxpayers for the money. The SAU has some 700 computers that will need replacing on a regular basis, she said.

If students are going to compete, it's essential they become well-versed in the latest technology, Cascadden said.

She noted grant money for equipment is no longer as readily available.

"Traditionally, we've been able to get computers and other equipment through various grants. Now, we're going to ask to get it from the taxpayers," she said.

City Manager Patrick MacQueen said Thursday it's too early for the city council to have a reaction to the proposal. It won't be presented to them until the school board submits its portion of the municipal budget in March.

"We can't deal with something we don't have a request on yet," he said.

Asked how her SAU stacked up on providing technology instruction to students, Cascadden said she had no figures from other New Hampshire superintendents for comparison, but said advancing Berlin's computer technology has been a priority of hers. School board members also consider it important, she said.

"I think that we are very progressive," she said.

Cascadden said in a memorandum that all classrooms have projectors and electronic whiteboards, and that such equipment as laptop computers, iPads, document cameras and e-readers are available to students.

She said in the next two years, the SAU would also seek to add the position of "technology integrator" - at about $75,000 per year - to keep students and faculty up to speed on the latest equipment.

There are more than 1,200 students, kindergarten through 12th grade, in the city's schools. Cascadden cited the results of a recent survey that she said showed computer technology is important to Berlin's students and their families.

The survey indicated that a large majority of student homes have access to a computer, Internet, laptops and various other communication devices such as tablets and iPhones.

Cascadden said that since the 2011-12 school year ended, Berlin has added 52 wireless access points in the schools, installed new network wiring, updated seven of its 10 computer servers and completed work that now has about 95 percent of the SAU's computers running the latest Microsoft software.

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