Bigger ‘highway’ needed at AHS

Published 1:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Andalusia City Schools will have to build an information highway of their own before they can move away from traditional textbooks.

Superintendent Ted Watson explained to board of education members Monday, and city council members Tuesday, that teachers at AHS wanted to explore using laptops and ebooks in lieu of textbooks.

“There is strong interest in the one-to-one initiative,” he said. “This can be purchasing computers to give to kids to use as textbooks,” he said. “Or, in Vestavia Hills, they have BYOD – bring your own device. They actually allowed kids to bring computers, iPads, and phones to work with.”

“Some of our teachers wanted to look at having a cart of computers in the classroom instead of books,” he said. “We started talking to Gary Odom, who handles our information technology.”

And what they found, Watson said, is it is going to take a whole lot more infrastructure to make that happen.

“If we had the equipment, we couldn’t use it, because we don’t have the infrastructure to support that,” he said.

Watson told board members he expects a goal of moving to a one-to-one initiative will be part of a strategic plan for the schools that will be developed by the community in the coming months.

“Whatever we initiate, we’ve got to have the money to fund, to sustain, and to provide professional development. If we’re going to the expense of providing the equipment, we’ve got to make sure it’s used and used appropriately,” he said.

At AHS, he said, he and others thought that 30 to 100 students were using the wireless system.

“It was more like 600 devices on it,” Watson said.

To get the proper infrastructure in place, he estimates the system would need to spend $175,000 to $225,000.

“That’s where we are with that,” he said. “We ‘re looking at infrastructure and affordability. This is a pretty common issue statewide. We found that out when we did state testing online. Schools are just not ready. We did it, but we had to test students in stages.”

The elementary and middle schools are more prepared, Watson said, because funding for electronics was based on free and reduced lunches. The numbers were high enough for the system to qualify at AES and AMS, but not at AHS.

Watson also expressed his appreciate to the council for help with maintenance work. City crews assisted with demolition in preparation for construction at AHS, and have helped with pressure washing at AHS for the upcoming year, and with repair work in the auditorium.

“We appreciate y’all,” he said.