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Local

Sycamore School District 427 Board considering next steps in school tech

Sycamore School District 427 board members Jeff Jacobson (from left), Eric Jones and Austin Hofer explore Yellowstone National Park through Google Expeditions, an educational virtual reality software that allows students to explore more than 1,000 locations from within a classroom, during the board's meeting Tuesday at West Elementary School in Sycamore.
Sycamore School District 427 board members Jeff Jacobson (from left), Eric Jones and Austin Hofer explore Yellowstone National Park through Google Expeditions, an educational virtual reality software that allows students to explore more than 1,000 locations from within a classroom, during the board's meeting Tuesday at West Elementary School in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – Sycamore schools are not quite at a 1:1 student-to-electronic device ratio throughout the district, but they are starting to consider options on how to get closer to that ahead of budget talks next month.

Sycamore School District 427 officials talk about the state of technology in the school district during their meeting Tuesday night at West Elementary School. The current districtwide student-to-device ratio is about 2.8:1, with the ratio about 4:1 at the high school level, according to a technology committee presentation.

Board President Jim Dombek said he likes the idea of the district moving closer to a 1:1 model in Sycamore schools.
He said it can better prepare students for higher education learning environments or technology they might come across while on the job.

“Finances may or may not allow for that,” Dombek said.

Dombek said more discussions about student technology access will occur when budget talks start up again next month.

District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman said Sycamore High School already has implemented a bring-your-own-device program at Sycamore High School for the past few years. She said the district is not looking to proceed full speed ahead with implementing a true 1:1 model throughout schools in the district, however, school officials are looking at ways to still get more devices in the hands of students.

In addition to the technology committee’s report, board members also got to experience new virtual reality technology called Google Expeditions that recently was bought for West Elementary School through grant funding. Board members specifically went through a presentation where they learned about Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday.

Brian Borrelli, the head of technology for West Elementary School, said the software includes virtual reality that can be worked into school curriculum. Through the software, he said, students are able to go on more than 1,000 expeditions through the use of virtual reality goggles.

“We thought it would be awesome for our students to be able to experience things that they’re not going to be able to experience otherwise,” Borrelli said.

2019-20 calendar update

The District 427 board also voted, 7-0, on Tuesday to approve the 2019-20 district calendar. The consideration comes after the Illinois State Board of Education said it now is leaving the definition of an instructional day up to individual school districts.

The state previously required students to be in their seats in classrooms at least five hours a day. Countryman had said District 427 is not looking at including remote student engagement or e-learning days within next year’s calendar – unlike what DeKalb School District 428 is considering. However, the updated ISBE regulations could give good opportunities for local control, including flexible scheduling for the high school.

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