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June 12, 2014

Clay County Schools move to boost digital curriculum

School board redraws district map, solidifies gun policy for campus

BRAZIL — Clay County students in grades 6 to 12 will lease laptops for the 2014-15 school year, part of a new Clay Community Schools initiative.

“We are making the transition to a 1-to-1 digital curriculum,” Superintendent Kim Tucker said Thursday. Dell laptops will be used.

The district believes the digital devices provide more opportunities and possibilities for students, who will have access to online resources in every subject. “We are broadening their curriculum and we can take a more differentiated approach with students,” based on their needs and abilities, she said.

Textbooks, especially in social studies and science, tend to get outdated quickly, she said.

Publishing companies also are moving away from textbooks and coming out with new digital materials. The district has been working with teachers to find online resources in place of former curriculum materials that have been used.

“It will still be somewhat textbook-based,” she said. This year, the district has decided not to purchase language arts textbooks, even though it is a language arts adoption year.

The laptop lease-rental fee is expected to be $122 per year, according to district officials. That is the maximum amount, and the district is looking for ways to reduce or offset it with capital project funds, according to the district website.

The website suggests that middle school students also would pay a $10 textbook fee, while high school students would pay a $30 textbook fee, as the district continues to pay off some of its newer textbook adoptions.

Those fees will be acted upon at a future board meeting, Tucker said during Thursday’s Clay Community School Board meeting. “What we’re trying to do … is eliminate as much as possible any of the remaining textbook charges,” she said. Some books are further along in the adoption process. “We met what we need to break even, and those could be eliminated.”

At the meeting, the board took action related to the new laptop initiative:

• It approved policy related to acceptable use and guidelines for the laptop initiative.

• The board approved a job description for a district digital learning specialist. The district will continue to evaluate where it is in terms of budget and personnel and make a decision later this summer about whether to post the position, Tucker said.

Two board members, including Amy Adams, voted against it. She opposed having that position as an administrative one; if funding was available for an additional position, she preferred that position be in the technology department so the person could contribute to the overall well-being of the technology program.

• The district also adopted a policy that says school employees are not allowed to bring firearms into a school building. A new state law allows adults to have guns in parked cars on school property. The guns must be concealed and in locked vehicles.

The board policy approved Thursday clarifies that school employees  “are not permitted to bring that firearm into the building,” Tucker said.

Such a prohibition also applies to students and patrons, she said after the meeting.

• In another matter, the board approved redistricting of school board electoral districts.

Earlier this year, a citizen pointed out that school board electoral districts in Clay County were not equitable in terms of population and needed to be revised to comply with state law.

In Clay County, three school board seats are at large, meaning everyone in the entire school district votes for those candidates.

But four of the school board members have electoral districts, and only voters in that candidate’s electoral district can vote for those candidates.

According to state statute, those electoral districts have to be as equal in population as practically possible.

The board has chosen to redistrict electoral boundaries based on a proposal presented by a representative of the Clay County election office, who laid out new districts that adhere to state code and bring the school board districts within the state-mandated parameters.

According to Tucker, the next step is for the action to be advertised to allow a public comment period.  If no one objects, it becomes final.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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