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Luna visits Sugar-Salem HS for progress report on technology grant

Luna visits Sugar-Salem HS for progress report on technology

SUGAR CITY, Idaho - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna was in Eastern Idaho Thursday morning. It was a progress report on the Idaho Technology Pilot Program.

Sugar-Salem is one of 11 schools with a grant that puts an electronic device in the hands of every student. The school was awarded a grant that gives every one of its students a laptop. 

"I think the students have been excited about it. When we first handed out the laptops they were excited and I would say giddy about it," said Jared Jenks, principal at Sugar-Salem High School.

"Being able to type things up is a lot nicer, and typing our notes make us able to get better, more detailed notes," said Mason, a senior at Sugar-Salem.

The school modeled its grant application after  Luna's Proposition 3, which focused on technology in the classroom.
Even the cost is the same at about $180 per student per year.

"When we negotiated that statewide contract those numbers are pretty close aren't they," said Luna.

Like any trial program, there are growing pains. Bandwidth is one. A couple of months into the school year, half the students still cannot hook up to printers.

For Jenks, the biggest problem is they can't take care of the problems themselves. Part of the grant was working with an outside company for tech support.

"I think what we are learning is there needs to be that flexibility because other districts would tell you the managed service works for them because maybe that don't have the IT staff and capability to support the system themselves," said Luna.

Some of the problems aren't even technological. The grant process happened quickly, without parent input.

"We assumed everyone would feel equally positive and not everyone did. So we had to apologize and go out and get input. We started a parent technology committee to help us make decisions," said Alan Dunn, Sugar-Salem School District superintendent.

One of the biggest concerns is filtering. Internet access is limited in school. In the next couple of weeks, filters will be installed on each laptop that parents can adjust at home.

Jenks believes it's an opportunity to do more than limit.

"We have responsibility as a school to teach the students digital citizenship. We are working in collaboration with the parents to teach our students appropriate use and appropriate behaviors in the use of technology on a daily basis," he said.

That's a responsibility Jenks wants to make permanent. He said Sugar-Salem was "all in" on the one-device to one-student program. The school even eliminated all computer labs.

"Our concern right now is if the state legislature does not fund one to one devices in the future, what will we do as a high school when these devices age and become obsolete," said Jenks.

He said he doesn't want to cross that bridge yet.

Sugar-Salem is still working parent questions and concerns. The parent committee will hold another open meeting in November.

Luna later visited Beutler Middle School in Dayton, which is another one of schools in the pilot program. He said it is still his goal to give every student in Idaho equal access and opportunity. 

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