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Schools need technology upgrades

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Technology in Alexandria School District 206 is ready for evolution.

"At some point we will have to make some changes," said Kevin Brezina, technology director for the district. "What are we going to do in the next couple years?"

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At Monday's meeting of the District 206 School Board, Brezina, who began his duties July 1, tried to answer that question.

After spending the last few months reviewing the system, Brezina reported that the technology staff has been restructured - with one position eliminated.

Districtwide, there are more than 2,300 computers and more than 400 iPads. Computers were recently upgraded to Windows 7 and Office 2010. There has been an addition of five iPads for each kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade classrooms.

"It's a very exciting initiative," Brezina said. "It is so fun walking down the halls and seeing kids using those iPads."

In an effort to "tune up the wireless network," 40 wireless access points have been added throughout the district.

Although some computers were replaced this summer, Brezina reported the average age of the "aging" desktops and laptops in the classrooms is 7 years old. The ideal average is 5 years or less.

An audit is currently under way in which technology staff is visiting each classroom in the district, writing down all technology-related equipment and entering it into a database. The goal is to complete the inventory by December 15.

A recent assessment funded through a grant from Cisco has indicated several areas in need of revision and updating. The district's firewall is "end of life" and will need replacement; wiring needs to be repaired; the storage area needs expansion; and the computer rotation cycle needs to be increased. Efforts are also being made to prepare and ensure a seamless integration of the new high school.

Of course, technology comes with a price tag. Brezina estimates that over the next two fiscal years, the improvements will cost $160,000.

"In the next couple years we are due for an initiative to upgrade, absolutely," he concluded.

NO PARKING

"From the rapid pace of technology [we move on] to the boring and mundane issues of real estate and lines on the ground," said John Lervick, legal counsel for District 206, as he addressed the board.

According to Lervick, there is a "glitch" in the sale of Jefferson High School's existing property to Brenton and Sally Smith of Alexandria. A .62-acre parcel of land that includes 80 parking spaces is under dispute because of a parking easement agreement established in 1995.

The Smiths don't want to buy the entire piece of property if it includes a parcel with parking restrictions. Discussions with Kevin Kopischke, president of Alexandria Technical and Community College, indicate that the land can be transferred to the college.

With this transfer, the purchase price of the high school offered by the Smiths, $2 million, would be reduced by $57,926. Lervick requested approval from the board to approve and amend the purchase price of the high school and modify the acreage, with the objective being to eliminate the parking easement.

CLASS CHANGES

Technology is not the only area that is experiencing evolution. Julie Critz, director of curriculum, addressed changes in curriculum proposed for next year.

The district will add the following classes: wildlife studies; manufacturing design; physics in manufacturing; online personal fitness; and theater arts II. The physics class was added in response to a change that will take effect in 2015, which requires that all students take either physics or chemistry.

To accommodate these class additions while keeping staff at its current level, the following classes will be eliminated: advanced power and hydraulics; architectural drafting II; mechanical drafting II; woodworking II; and Minnesota geology.

Several changes in class titles will occur with the implementation of the new curriculum.

"I do expect that we will have a couple more requests for changes," Critz surmised.

SPECIAL BOARD MEETING

At a special board meeting on November 16, the school board took action to approve bids for Bid Package 3 of the new high school project. The board awarded a total of $36,055,146 in construction contracts.

In all, 31 construction contracts were awarded for work such as mechanical systems, electrical, carpentry, masonry, drywall and fireproofing, aluminum and glazing.

The new high school is being built on a 167-acre site owned by the school district at the intersection of 50th Avenue and Pioneer Road. The project is targeted for completion by September 2014. It remains ahead of schedule and below budget estimates.

For information about the high school project, visit the district website at www.alexandria.k12.mn.us.

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