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D-87 gets feedback on technology, facility issues

Published: Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT

As Glenbard Township High School District 87 explores the best ways to address its technology and facility needs, district leaders held community forums at each of the Glenbard high schools to share information with families and gather feedback.

“We framed them as investments, so reaching out to the community and engaging our parents on key commitment and initiatives, we feel, is important,” Superintendent David Larson said.

The three main topics for the forums included District 87’s Instructional Technology Strategic Plan, its Master Facilities Plan and the extended lunch periods implemented this fall at Glenbard high schools.

Overall, the feedback received by the district either affirmed the projects or asked for clarification, so no changes are expected to be made in response to the forums.

However, comments and questions were shared with the D-87 Board of Education at a meeting Oct. 21.

“Considerable research went into each of these major focus areas,” said Peg Mannion, community relations coordinator. “ ... these are significant decisions that are being made, so it takes a good deal of research to best address each one of them.”

As part of its Instructional Technology Strategic Plan, the district began a pilot program last school year that put iPads in the hands of students in two to four classes at each Glenbard high school. This year, the board expanded upon that initiative by approving the “Bring Your Own Technology” program, which allows students to use smartphones and tablets in class.

Now, the district may extend the pilot program by including all incoming freshmen in fall 2014. But exactly what the program will look like – whether students would rent the iPads from the district or purchase the tablets themselves – remains to be decided.

Some forum feedback focused on professional development for teachers in relation to the increased use of technology.

While most teachers have received training, all are expected to be trained by the end of the semester, Director of Instructional Technology Robert Lang said in a previous interview with Suburban Life Media.

District 87 could spend as much as $100 million over 10 years updating its facilities as part of its Master Facility Plan, which focuses on primary infrastructure improvements as well as classroom renovations and additions.

Of the $100 million, $65 million will be funded by the district’s Operations and Maintenance budget, which totals about $6.5 million each year. In order to provide available funding more quickly, the Board of Education approved issuing bonds to borrow $20 million that will be paid off using that budget.

The remaining $35 million would come from an extension of the district’s current bond debt that is set to expire in future years. The extension will keep tax rates at their current levels instead of allowing them to decrease, and requires a referendum measure, which could come as early as spring 2014.

If a referendum failed, the district would need to determine how to proceed, Larson said.

Changes that have already come to the district include the extended lunch periods at each school, which offer students more opportunities to receive academic support.

Some parents were concerned that more attention was being given to failing students who are required to receive help at the expense of average students. But Larson said these logistical issues are being addressed as the program continues.

A more detailed plan for expanding an iPad program to include incoming freshmen, as well as the proposed wording for a referendum measure concerning facilities, will be presented at the Nov. 4 Board of Education meeting.

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