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Local schools getting underway with some important changes
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There’s plenty going on in the local schools this week—lots of change and lots of new things are happening as school gets underway for another year.

One of the biggest developments at both Seneca and North Crawford will be issuing students new personal laptop computers, known as Chromebooks, for use with the schools’ recently upgraded wireless networks.

Seneca will issue every high school student a Chromebook in the coming weeks, according to district administrator and high school principal Dave Boland. The plan is to bring in students by class along with their parents to go over the ground rules on care and usage of the computers, which students will be allowed to take home every night. Boland said the district hopes to have given every student their Chromebook by the second or third week of September.

North Crawford will also issue students Chromebooks, but plans to have the computers remain in the school at the end of the school day. The school’s pilot program called ‘One-to-One’ will issue Chromebook computers to every eighth grade student this year. The students will check out the computers at the beginning of the school day and return them before leaving for the day, according to district administrator and high school principal Dan Davies.

North Crawford is considering a plan to purchase more Chromebooks for each incoming eighth grade class for the next four years until there are personal computers for the entire student body. However, the district is still considering other options for getting computers into the hands of its students.

Goggle’s Chromebook is what is making much of this possible. The computer has limited memory. It uses programs stored on the internet, where it stores all of the work done on the computer. Because it uses the internet for memory, instead of large internal hard drives, the Chromebook has become very affordable and the districts are obtaining them for about $300 per unit.

Both school districts used grant money to make the purchases. Seneca’s purchase was facilitated by the work of the charitable Seneca Educational Foundation, which applied for and received a grant for the purchase. North Crawford used federal REAP (Rural Education Achievement Program) funds.

However, the two local school districts have more in common than Chromebooks for students and upgrading their wireless computer networks to accommodate them. Both districts also have a half-dozen new staff members on board. For Seneca the new staff includes three new teachers; Tyler Payne, middle school special education; Kally Bockenhauer, ag teacher; and Laura Mackey, elementary music. Additionally, Seneca has hired Shannon Boland, elementary school paraprofessional; Dan Groh, cleaning; and Amy Oppriecht, part-time bookkeeper. At North Crawford there are four new teachers, including; Lisa Andresen, special education; Dana Bay, third grade; Melinda Biege, speech; Anna Davidson, physical education; Nicole Peth, second grade; and Holly Roth, band instructor. The district also hired Anna Jacobson for kitchen help.

By the way, school lunches will cost a little more at North Crawford, while the cost will stay the same at Seneca. At North Crawford, elementary school lunch will be $2.15; middle school and high school lunch will be $2.45; all student breakfasts will be $1.05. All reduced price meals will be 40 cents and adult lunches will be $3.25 with breakfasts at $1.55.

North Crawford improved its air conditioning system over the summer by replacing it aging and undependable chiller with a new unit. They also extensively repaired some of the school buses.

Both schools are aware of changes in student testing that are coming and are making adjustment to have the students ready to take standardized tests on computers in the spring of 2015.

One major difference between the districts is the foreign exchange student program. North Crawford has 12 foreign exchange students and Seneca has none at this point.

North Crawford has embraced the foreign exchange program under the direction of Jen Klekamp and had lots of good results.

Davies said the district had 12 foreign exchange students four or five years ago as well and greatly benefitted from the experience.

“It was a wonderful experience for our kids,” Davies said. “There was a noticeable increase in interest in other languages and cultures. It was great to see how they all got along together and the exchange students just molded into the student body.”