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West Fargo School District reviews technology needs

The West Fargo School Board's Technology Committee and administrators met on December 10, to assess future technology needs for the district. One of the top priorities they have been studying is the need to find a better wireless solution for Harwood and Horace Elementary schools.

According to Rob Kaspari, the district's technology director, Horace Elementary loses their Internet connection on an average of about two or three times a month, leaving the school without phone or Internet service. Harwood's service is better, although their system runs very slow. The district has been looking at available options to rectify the situation.

"The coverage for those outlying areas is not a good scenario," Kaspari said. "But the solution has to be cost-effective."

The district is currently seeking bids from potential vendors interested in providing a telephone system for the new kindergarten center planned in Osgood. Kaspari feels it is an opportune time to review service throughout the district, and to try to take advantage of E-Rate funding through the federal government.

The committee also looked at a report compiled by a group of teachers in the district who have been addressing the issue of 'what is appropriate technology for a district classroom.' The group, consisting of about a dozen teachers, representing a cross-section of different grade levels and schools throughout the district, would like to see projectors installed in every classroom, better audio in their classrooms, and more computers.

Many textbooks are now sold with digital information resources attached. The teachers feel that having projectors readily available would greatly enhance their classroom options, allowing them to supplement textbook learning with corresponding digital and online data. Kaspari has been researching projectors on the market with audio options that would help students hear presentations more clearly from anywhere in the classroom.

Aurora Elementary and the Sheyenne 9th Grade Center were designed with built in projectors in each classroom. 280 classrooms in the district do not have projectors at this time. Kaspari would like to begin a three-to-five year plan, budgeting to add projectors for some classrooms each year until every classroom in the district has one. Adding student laptops is also under consideration.

"We have to remain flexible. If one year into a three-to-five year plan, technology and circumstances change, we have to be able to change our plan accordingly," Kaspari said.

Other issues the committee has been discussing is the possibility of purchasing laptops for school board members to help alleviate the vast volume of paperwork and handouts they accumulate; upgrading network switches and adding more ports in district buildings to accommodate the growing number of computers; and the transition from SASI to PowerSchool. Students will be registering for classes this winter on PowerSchool.