Valley Falls school board gets preview of new teaching tools
by Clarke Davis
The Valley Falls school board is contemplating adding more technology to the classroom and is waiting for a general assessment from the teachers along with a price tag.
Teachers Cheryl Brosa and Trista Gish gave the board members a demonstration with their iPads Feb. 13, projecting the many applications available on a screen and explaining how they work.
One application for anatomy pictured the human heart, which board members viewed with rotating pictures showing the organ from all angles and how it works.
Teachers are finding the devices to be a good tool to help children learn and that they surpass the textbook in many cases. They note that the children are more adept at using technology than adults and not only quickly take to new technologies but are more excited about the learning process.
“They (the children) are excited about technology,” Gish said. The teachers noted that use of some technologies have proved to raise math scores by 20 percent.
These applications range from free to more than $10 each for one device, but the teachers explained that they can be purchased in bulk for less money.
Brosa and Gish along with Deb Spade make up a technology committee, who along with the school’s technician, Cary Brosa, are experimenting with iPads in the classroom and developing a school plan.
Superintendent Loren Feldkamp said the district received about $32,000 each year in federal money aimed at technology. They have used these funds in the past for computer labs and to equip classrooms and teachers with laptop computers.
Feldkamp said this money will help but will not be sufficient to take the next step in bringing iPads to the classroom.
When the plan is complete it will give the board a picture of what will be required in terms of infrastructure to facilitate the growing demand of various devices and how many teachers and students need to have access to this new technology. The board is expected to begin a phase-in program based on what it can afford each year.
President Jody Lockhart presided at the meeting with all members present.
The superintendent gave a financial report noting that the district has adjusted to the budget cuts in recent years and projected a remaining balance of over $400,000 come June 30.
However, he cautioned, that could evaporate pretty quickly with some basic needs if the board approves.
He cited the need for a school bus, $75,000, transfer to capital outlay, $150,000, summer projects, $30,000, vehicle purchase, $18,000, and technology upgrades, $35,000. That skims it down to $100,000.
The capital outlay fund — used for maintaining buildings, grounds, and vehicles — does not have a mill levy, thus the need to transfer money from either the general or supplemental funds. Feldkamp said the capital outlay balance is over $600,000, but cautioned that a district the size of Valley Falls should not have less than $500,000 to meet any unexpected contingencies or emergencies.
The board will soon be handed a list of summer projects with estimated costs to be prioritized. Feldkamp pointed out the strides that have been made at the football stadium. The large pile of dirt that was on the east end is gone, used for moving the football field 10 feet to the east.
The field has new lights and good stadium seating along with a new concession stand and restrooms. The focus now shifts to fencing and the track.
It’s estimated it will cost $125,000 to lay a new base for the track and put down a 4-inch layer of asphalt. Even with that, it will not be a regulation track for high school events and most schools who host track events have rubber surfaced tracks, a much higher cost.
The administration believes, however, that it can be made a good practice facility for local track athletes and might be capable of hosting a middle school event. It was noted that the community at large gets a benefit from having a track, as well.
In other business, the board:
- Extended the contracts for Superintendent Feldkamp and PreK-12 Principal Susan Grey. No salary amounts are established at this time.
- Looked at an offer from the Valley Falls Athletic Association to rent the ball fields for $1,800 for the coming season. The price used to be $1,500 but the school did not pay anything the past couple of years when the budget was tight. The board did indicate it wanted a contract.
- Approved the Green Schools Grant for the fourth year. This is a recycling program handled through the middle school. If approved by the state, it will amount to $996 with a 25 percent match. The local match is volunteer labor instead of cash.
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