New technology soon may provide parents a peek at a teacher's guarded grade book, a look at what their child is learning in the classroom and a glance at upcoming homework assignments.
The school system is moving forward with a plan to improve the flow of information between parents, pupils, teachers and school administrators in and out of the classroom.
The effort to integrate technology began at the top this year when the school board moved toward electronic meetings, and each member received a laptop computer. Also, the school system's Web site, ccboe.net, has been revamped.
But in the next five years, the system's goal is to integrate technology into the home and classroom - a move that school officials hope will bring pupils' education closer to home and closer to the watchful eyes of parents.
"If you don't engage parents to help students learn, you aren't taking full advantage of the resources available. We need to be getting them there and by opening this up, we are looking at how we can do that electronically," said Michael Kent, the Columbia County school system's director of technology.
One goal this year is to provide all high-school students with their own network log-in and server space.
"When we had senior projects last year, we had students developing projects with 30 megabytes," Kent said. "That won't fit on a floppy drive, and not all students have a rewriteable CD-ROM, so we've got to do things smarter this year."
A two-year goal is to use the secure log-in and password to provide teachers with remote capabilities, which would allow them to work from home or to access information from another remote location outside the classroom. One benefit of the electronic grade book is that each school would have a standardized report card, Kent said.
This is the second year the school system has piloted Web-authoring software in five of its schools.
At Greenbrier High School, for example, every teacher now has his or her own Web site. The Web-authoring software, which was purchased at the recommendation of the Technology Planning Committee, now makes it easier for teachers to publish information and has given each site a look consistent with the school system's corporate template.
"You don't have to be a Web-site developer to publish a Web page now," Kent said. "It's going to make it much easier for teachers to publish notes, homework assignments and such."
In the future, this new technology is expected to make a huge impact on classroom management - attendance records, homework assignments and classroom notes could be posted.
"Parents at home could see what their child had studied that day," Kent said.
In the 2004-2005 school year, the goal is to roll out the remote access capability to parents.
"They will be able to see if their child attended school, grades, anything the board decides to give them access to," Kent said. "However, we will also have to come up with the rules of how to handle separated families."
It is estimated that 85 to 90 percent of Columbia County pupils have a computer at home, said Associate Superintendent of Student Learning Dr. Lauren Williams, who headed the technology task force.
But for those who don't, the school system plans to use its older computers to set up kiosks in schools, retail locations or libraries - places where parents and pupils could have access to them.
"We have to be complete in our thought process," Kent said. "We can't leave anyone out."
Changes in the Columbia County school system for the 2003-04 academic year.
Student lunch prices will go up 25 cents this year, a move by the school board that is expected to improve, but not eliminate, the budget deficit in the school nutrition budget. It is the first increase in eight years. The price of lunch next year will increase from $1.25 to $1.50.
* A major pupil shuffle will play out when school opens. Some pupils from half of the system's elementary schools have been rezoned to make up the student body of the new Lewiston Elementary School. The new school will include students from Riverside, Martinez, Westmont, Evans, Brookwood, Belair and North Columbia.
* Zoning changes also will affect some rising middle-schoolers. Pupils in the Martinez Elementary School zone now will all go to Evans Middle School.Before, some were sent to Riverside Middle School.
* A "for sale" sign likely will be posted at the 21-acre Evans Middle School. The state Department of Education is expected to declare the property surplus - more expensive to upgrade than to build a new school.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.