During the Massac Unit One board meeting via live feed on Facebook Monday night, the board was presented the district’s yearly technology report by Thomas Walker, director of technology.
During the 2019-20 school year the securly:// system used to identify when students are searching online for potential self harm, violence or bullying has identified over 200 cases. Walker says while many of them were unfounded, several of the instances did provide the opportunity to take action and hold a discussion with the students and parents as needed.
The district started using the securly:// system in April 2013 and was one of the first ten districts in the world to implement it.
Since 2012 the number of Chromebooks being used by students and teachers has risen from 5 to 2100. In three years from 2017 to 2020, the number has almost doubled from 2100 to 2400. Many of these have been purchased with grants made available to the district.
“We are super close on being able to go 1-on-1 with the amount of devices we have on hand. So as we move into the fall with this possibility of remote learning potentially looming over us, we may be able to make this more of a reality than in year’s past,” said Walker.
Almost $1 million has been invested from federal funding in the E-rate Program in electronics and technology since 2008 in the district. In 2020, $87,360 has been allotted and in 2019, $150,291 was allotted. The amounts enabled Walker to work on infrastructure, such as switches and access points for Wi-Fi, in the junior high and high schools.
“To date we have replaced or installed about 30 network switches and over 100 access points. We’re currently working on replacing and/or adding more access points as needed to provide stronger signals and faster speeds at all of our buildings. Recently, we replaced access points to provide better coverage in our parking lots for drive-up Wi-Fi,” said Walker.
Walker also noted:
• 2.1 emails have been sent and received during the last six months.
• 327 out of 329 trouble tickets have been resolved.
• Google Classroom usage doubled when remote learning started with more than 60 teachers utilizing the online based program.
• The student information system has been switched to Alma from InformationNOW which the district used for 10 years.
• The financial system was changed to SDS from Chalkable.
• No sensitive information was compromised during a ransomware attack in August 2019 that lasted half an hour.
• And, the Copper internet service contract at Unity Elementary ended in November 2019 resulting in savings of $1200 per month.
During Superintendent Jason Hayes’ report to the board, he said 1.4 million electronic messages have been sent through the Remind text system. From June 2019 through February 2020, there were 747,253 messages sent, and during the months of March and April 692,691 messages were sent while the students were using remote learning.
Hayes updated the board on kindergarten screening numbers. Both Franklin and Jefferson Elementary Schools only had 12 students screened this year, which is down from previous years. He’s hopeful that number will increase over the summer.
Regarding the COVID updates, 60,475 total meals were delivered to students during the school closure. He also reported the district will receive $628,058 from the CARES Act in a emergency relief grant. Districts are strongly encouraged to explore using these funds to strengthen infrastructure for remote learning, according to Hayes.
Finally he updated the board on the planning for fall 2021 when the new school year begins. Principals and teachers are exploring and preparing for three different instructional methods. First, in-person instruction as normal with personal protective equipment. Secondly, remote learning just like the students finished the school year, but this time with grades. And lastly, a hybrid of both where students may attend in-person two days per week and do remote learning the other days.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a resolution provided by the Illinois Association of School Boards for the Emergency Suspension of Policy due to COVID-19.
• Approved bids from Life Touch for student pictures, Gerlock for student insurance, Domino’s for pizza, Prairie Farms for dairy and Bimbo for bread.
• Accepted resignations from Amy Cherry, school psychologist and Kassie Gentry, Brookport Elementary teacher aid.
• And, approved the hiring of Cynthia Jackson, director of special education and Eric Qualls, special education teacher and Franklin and Jefferson.