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School board hears about technology upgrades



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BUSINESS ADMINISTRATOR AMY RANSOM demonstrates the new front doors installed in Barnstead Elementary School’s old lobby area this summer for school board members during a tour of the renovated lobby on Aug. 24. Brendan Berube. (click for larger version)
September 01, 2009
BARNSTEAD — Technology Director Walter Gaides provided school board members with a brief presentation during their Aug. 24 meeting on some recent upgrades made to Barnstead Elementary School's technological infrastructure in preparation for the 2009-10 school year.

Administrators, he said, will now be using the AlertNow phone system (the same program currently in use at Prospect Mountain High School) to notify parents of school closings, emergency situations, and special events.

Explaining the advantages AlertNow has over the school's previous system, Gaides said it will allow school officials to send out messages in their own voices, as opposed to impersonal computerized updates.

AlertNow, he added, sends out messages by voice mail, e-mail, and phone, and can be used to track athletic teams and classes traveling off campus for away games or field trips.

The system, Gaides said, will cost the district $3 per student per year (roughly $1,600, based on current enrollment figures), an amount comparable to the price of other alert systems on the market.

In order to alleviate connectivity issues for students using laptops, Gaides said, the school's "D" wing has been completely re-wired with a CISCO Systems business-class access point which will enable students to use laptops for research outside the building without worrying about losing the signal.

Every computer in the building is now running Microsoft Office 2007 to ensure compatibility, he said, and the library, the math enrichment room, and middle school Math teacher Misty Bowman's classroom are now equipped with ceiling-mounted projectors.

The biggest development on the technology front this year, however, was Gaides' decision to lease a supply of IBM Lenovo mini laptops for sixth grade students.

Explaining that he was able to lease 52 Lenovos for the price of 24 full-size laptop computers, Gaides said every student in the sixth grade will now have a laptop available exclusively for his or her own use during the school day.

The grand tour

Board members were astounded by the dramatic changes in the appearance of the school's old lobby area last week, as Principal Tim Rice conducted them on a tour of the extensive renovations made during the summer.

Rice and Business Administrator Amy Ransom explained that the original flooring in the old lobby was removed and replaced with a new anti-slip tile floor, and that the front doors were also replaced.

The bathrooms outside the cafeteria received the most dramatic facelift, with Ransom explaining that everything, from the sinks to the toilets to the flooring, was replaced.

All five board members also donated their stipends toward the purchase of new floor-mounted hand dryers for both the girls' and boys' bathrooms.

Both bathrooms have also been made handicapped-accessible, Ransom added.

As part of the renovations, Rice explained that new wooden access ramps were also constructed in front of the walk-in freezers behind the cafeteria; that a section of roofing over the school's "A" and "B" wings was replaced; and that the windows in four "D" wing classrooms and the main "D" wing hallway were replaced with newer, more energy-efficient models.

"We're in great shape" for the start of the school year, he said at the end of the tour.

Route 28 paving project under way

Rice informed the board during his bi-weekly report that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) was slated to begin laying a shim coat of new pavement over Route 28 between the Alton Traffic Circle and the Barnstead/Pittsfield town line the weekend of Aug. 28.

Explaining that he planned to send out a letter alerting parents of the project, Rice said the DOT anticipated delays or roughly five minutes for commuters.

Stimulus funds accepted

The school's Special Education program received an unanticipated financial boost last week through federal stimulus funding.

Ransom announced that Barnstead Elementary was in line to receive an additional $72,864.04 in Title I stimulus aid over the next two years, along with $128,887 in I.D.E.A. (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funding and $6,701.81 for pre-school.

The board voted unanimously to accept the additional funds, which will be used to supplement existing programs.

Setting goals

Superintendent William Compton presented the board with a preliminary list of administrative goals for the 2009-10 school year, explaining that he planned to go into more detail at a future meeting.

New to the list this year, he said, will be efforts to host a series of superintendent's forums with parents and other community members in order to gather feedback in preparation for the upcoming review of the district's strategic plan.

Compton also listed the establishment of a non-profit educational foundation and the development of a manual for SAU office staff among his personal goals for the coming year.

Open House set for Sept. 10

Rice announced last week that this year's Back to School Open House has been scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 10, beginning at 6 p.m.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board received a rough draft of a new paraprofessional handbook prepared by Special Education Director Anna Williams; approved administrators' recommendation for fall sports coaches (Rice said coaches are still needed for girls' and boys' soccer); approved leaves of absence for teachers Julie Couch and Pat Lucey; voted to hire a new paraprofessional, a long-term substitute for Couch, and a new alternative education instructor; received final drafts of the district's Technology and School In Need of Improvement (SINI/DINI) plans from Rice; and awarded a two-year special education transportation bid to H.A. Marston in the amount of $32,400 per year.

Next meeting

The board's next meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 6 p.m. in the elementary school media center.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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