Akron Public School officials approved purchases to prepare the district for next year’s online-only tests, while continuing to shrink the district amid waning enrollment numbers and a district-wide 44-school construction plan.
The district has mostly implemented the Common Core curriculum, which should bring more rigorous testing to the classroom by 2014. Now, the district must ensure there are enough computers, tablets and Internet access so that Akron students can take those tests online.
“We have a lot [of computers] in the district, but not nearly enough for all our students,” said Ellen McWilliams, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “So we have to gear up for that.”
Following 1,500 computer upgrades approved in January, the Board of Education approved purchases and software upgrades totaling $393,647 at Monday’s meeting, including 60 new iPads, 270 Hewlett-Packard notebooks, 300 copies of Microsoft Office and 2,000 Windows program upgrades “for compatibility with state online testing.”
McWilliams and Debra Foulk, executive director of business affairs, began identifying necessary purchases in June using tools and recommendations provided by the Ohio Department of Education and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is developing the national tests under the Common Core standards.
The district will draw resources from the general fund and from grants under the federally funded Race To The Top (RTTT) program. All purchases, including the expansion of the district’s bandwidth or Internet connectivity, would be made in time for the assessments in 2014.
Current RTTT grants also include the training of three experienced teachers to mentor and evaluate first-year teachers. This initiative is modeled after a similar program in Toledo Public Schools.
To sustain this and other programs initiated under the RTTT program, the district has applied for money to create a grant writing office.
Superintendant David James also updated community members on the district’s construction efforts.
The district has completed 26 buildings, with three under construction and another three in the design phase. When the entire plan is finished, 44 buildings will have been a part of the overhaul. That’s 14 fewer than originally anticipated.
“As we right-sized the district, we’ve reduced that number,” James said.
Since 1995, enrollment has declined by nearly 10,000 students. Though enrollment has slowed, the district projects 20,137 students enrolled by the end of the construction program in the 2017-18 school year. Current enrollment is 22,005.
James said the district would present in June the program’s final phase, which would include a timeline for completion of the last 12 buildings. Further closures would also be recommended then.
The district is still expected to demolish Crosby, Old Voris, Lincoln, Heminger and Harris. Along with Smith Elementary, the following secondary buildings have been or will be closed: Goodyear, Goodrich, Kenmore, Crosby and Central-Hower.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.