Watertown Students May Get More Access to Technology

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Some Watertown students may have access to computers the entire school day next year if the school budget is approved. 

The $532,867 technology request includes $78,750 for 210 new Chromebooks, said Toni Carlson, career and technical education coordinator.

“We have a pilot (program) where eighth-graders will have a computer in their hands from the beginning of the day until the end of the day,” Carlson told the School Committee’s Budget and Finance Subcommittee.

The students will pick them up at the beginning of the day and return them to the carts to charge at the end of the day, Carlson said. When students must pick up and put away computers during each class period cuts into the teaching time, she added.

Small pilots have already been successful in single classrooms at Watertown Middle School and now officials want to expand it, Carlson said. They won’t take computers home with them, yet, Carlson said.

Other spending includes adding wireless network access points in the elementary schools. Adding 85 will cost $68,000 said district Technology Director George Skuse.

“The access points we have don’t support Chromebooks and don’t support MacBooks well,” Skuse said.

There are also wifi dead spots in parts of some schools and classrooms.

One reason Watertown school officials want to have a reliable wireless network is so they can give the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) standardized test that will be taken by students nationwide.

This year students will take the test with paper and pencil. However, taking the test on the computer is a different experience, with the program adjusting problems depending on whether a student answers the previous questions correctly or not.

The schools also want to replace the student information system (SIS) which is used to collect data on students which the district must send to the state. This will cost about $90,000 next year.

Parents will also see a new parent portal, with a new system replacing iPass.

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