Glencoe District 35 giving students computer choice
Central School is in the final strech of reconstruction before the opening at the end of the month. Gayle Stone and Vasil Petrov figure out where a paper shipment goes. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:09AM
How do you feel about your 11-year-old taking a family laptop to school every day?
If you’re a parent of a Glencoe public schools sixth-grader, you now have that decision to make.
School District 35 this year has a pilot program in which parents will decide whether their sixth-grader can take a tablet or laptop back and forth to school.
Any kid will tell you there are lots of advantages: some of the files the kids are working on at school suddenly become more portable. And work (and digital play) is now available at lunchtime in the cafeteria and everywhere else in Central School that it hadn’t been before.
New Trier High School has a similar program, but those are older kids.
How will the school’s Internet filtering system match up with all these new devices? And more importantly, what will it be like to send a computer along with a child who loves to see how far he can throw his backpack?
So, why not try this first with eighth-graders?
“We have a very good team (teaching sixth grade), and we wanted to try it on a very small scale,” District 35 Superintendent Cathlene Crawford said. “We want to be sure we get all of the bugs out.”
She said she doesn’t have to worry much about equity issues. “We’re very fortunate,” she said. “The students will probably be bringing more sophisticated equipment than they have known in school.”
Perhaps too sophisticated. Many Glencoe houses are stocked with Apple products, which typically cost twice what PC equipment does.
“Parents may want to make the decision, Boy, I do not want that walking out of the house,” Crawford said. “They may want to buy a less-expensive device just for this purpose.”
The backpacked computers will be carried into a Central School that looks a lot different. A $1.1 million renovation ended just before the doors open, and even the doors will be different. They open into a new, glass-rich lobby, which lets the sun into the previously tunnel-like front of the building.
There is no security desk in that sunlit lobby, though that was originally planned. The new security system is operated from the offices in all three school buildings, after the school secretaries had their input, Crawford said.
“It’s their office and they’re going to manage it,” she said.
The new security software system will check to see whether anybody who wants to come in has a sexual felony or an outstanding criminal warrant on record. The system takes about a minute to work, and is even faster once a regular visitor has been checked once, Crawford said.
At fifth-through-eighth-grade Central, the entire office has been rearranged. One of the results is that there’s a space set aside so that a kid in trouble no longer has to wait for the assistant principal along the traffic pattern of everybody who comes in.
The electric lights in the Central lobby won’t blaze away when the sun shines, district business manager Jason Edelheit said. “We have ‘daylight harvesting,’ he said. “Light sensors automatically adjust to how much light is coming in the windows.”
All of the hallways at Central have been re-tiled, the walls painted and cafeteria windows and floors updated.
The 50-year-old washroom fixtures in the school have been replaced, and the ones nearly twice that old in the Misner annex have been updated, too, Edelheit said.
As the school population shrinks, all of the retiring instructors — eight teachers and one associate teacher — have not been replaced, Crawford said.
There were nine retirees in the 2011-12 school year. Eight of these individuals were teachers and one was a teacher associate.
Three of the eight teaching slots weren’t filled, but in all, nine teachers were hired, she said. Five replace retirees, and three became administrators or just moved away.
The ninth new hire is a half-time kindergarten teacher who replaces another half-time kindergarten teacher and a half-time technology integration teacher, who is moving on to becoming a full-time technology integration teacher for the 2012-13 school year.