SHERIDAN — Discussions about technology in the classroom dominated Tuesday’s meeting of the Sheridan County School District 1 Board of Trustees in Ranchester.
The regularly scheduled board meeting saw trustees approve the hiring of a part-time technology instructor for Big Horn Elementary in addition to discussions about how best to improve the district’s still relatively new policy of providing iPads for use by students in certain grade levels.
Additionally, the board reviewed blueprints of other Wyoming schools in preparation for the proposed construction of a new Tongue River Elementary and approved a compensation package for Superintendent Marty Kobza.
Board members said that because most schools in the district are expecting larger than normal enrollment next school year, plans to accommodate a growing student body and better equip them with technological tools are paramount.
“It’s OK to work with a machine, but if you know what’s happening inside that machine it makes them a lot easier to work with,” board chairman Johann Nield said of the decision to hire a tech instructor at Big Horn Elementary.
According to a report from Kobza, the district’s kindergarten and high school programs are both preparing for large incoming classes this fall.
Fifty children are pre-registered for kindergarten at Tongue River Elementary while 32 are pre-registered at Big Horn Elementary.
Both figures represent substantial increases from previous years.
During a discussion by the board, Kobza said that while the district is prepared to successfully handle the influx, thorough planning for future years is imperative.
Currently, a committee of school district representatives are mulling over the physical layouts of other Wyoming elementary schools in preparation for the construction of the new Tongue River Elementary.
Officials made the decision to construct a new building because of rising enrollment numbers and a physical difficulty of adding onto the current edifice.
While constructed to hold about 204 students, the school is expecting a student body of about 250 next year.
Kobza said that if all goes according to plan, construction could begin as early as next spring.
With regards to the district’s iPad policy, board members held preliminary discussions about how best to reform the program to minimize breakage of the tools.
Last year — the first year the program was instated — 45 of 250 iPads issued to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders for use during the year were returned to the district damaged.
Since the program is set to be expanded to include ninth- and 10th-graders this year, board members said a better policy was needed in order to ensure the tools were handled carefully.
The board members discussed an optional $50 insurance policy as one potential option.
“I know most parents will do it because a $50 insurance policy for a ($399) iPad is a pretty good deal,” Nield said.
Kobza said the district’s iPad program is in keeping with its goal of moving toward electronic textbooks as both an educational enhancement as well as a cost-cutting maneuver.
The board is scheduled to meet again July 17.