Shirland School District updates technology for new school year

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SHIRLAND - Across the country, rural school districts struggle to keep up with their larger suburban neighbors when it comes to the implementation of new technology for students.

Shirland School District 134 has been able to completely update its educational technology, even launching a 1:1 Chromebook laptop computer program for grades 3 through 8.

The effords have been made possible primarily through grant funding.

"We've gone from being behind in our technology implementation to being a leader in implementing new technology," Superintendent-Principal Dr. Ulferts said.

In the past seven years, the district has equipped all of its classrooms with interactive whiteboards, document projectors, added security cameras inside and outside the building, and replaced all of its networking cabling, switches, router and server.

In 2014. a statewide broadband speed test rated Shirland with a D- for connectivity. That all changed when Shirland constructed its own dedicated internet tower with Rise Broadband. Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, Shirland School had lightning-fast internet speed.

At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, Shirland also launched its 1:1 initiative providing students in 6th through 8th grade with HP Chromebooks and carrying cases. Students in 7th thru 8th grade were immediately allowed to bring home the $300 Chromebooks, while 6th grade began bringing them home later that fall.

The Shirland Board of Education voted to expand the 1:1 initiative to 5th grade at its August meeting and to include 3rd-4th grade in the initiative at its November Board of Education meeting. The district's schoolwide Title One status has enabled it to lease the chromebooks for all of the 3rd-8th grade students.

Parents are required to pay a one-time $30 insurance fee which covers each student's first insurance claim. Further claims are assessed at an additional $30 per claim.

"We are providing a $300 item to students at minimal cost. It is a great value to them, and to their families," Ulferts said.

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