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Marietta purchases devices for each student

One device per student.

That’s the direction Marietta City Schools is headed for the 2020-21 school year and other local districts may be doing the same.

The way it works, explained Director of Curriculum and Technology Jona Hall during Marietta’s board of education meeting Monday, is like a locker or textbook issue for the school year–numbered, signed out and at the end of the school year returned.

“I’m working on those agreements now for how they would be issued,” explained Hall Tuesday.

On Monday the board approved the purchase/lease of approximately 1,800 new devices, to complement the laptops already owned by the district for student use.

The goal is to facilitate instruction in whatever form may be required this fall, once schools are allowed to return to new instruction.

Coronavirus has forced educators this year to be more inventive, flexible and responsive to their students, said Phillips Elementary Principal Kristi Lantz.

“And our teachers have really stepped up to the plate on that, pulling off classroom Facebook groups, using Youtube, mailing flashcards, anything they could think of,” she shared.

For Cindy Burton, first-grade teacher for the last 29 years, it was a quick learning curve to completely adjust instruction and parent involvement to online modules.

“It hurts to not have that closure with my kids, they look forward to so many things at the end of the year,” Burton said. “But it’s also the time of the year when you really see things click for them.”

And while closing the spring semester canceled testing for primary school children, the same can’t be said for the fall.

“This will be the goal for the fall, we want your child to be engaged in education,” said Lantz. “But in the fall it’s going to look much different because now this was more of a supplemental (where we couldn’t) ask for grades… but going to one-to-one devices will really help.”

Help with new material, new instruction and even adjusted methods of teaching will be based on the learning needs and styles of students, she said.

“I’m really looking at the strengths of all of my staff,” Lantz explained. “Maybe teacher X is better at teaching phonics, and teacher Y is stronger in math, how do we make that work in the classroom and on the screen.”

Lantz said with unknowns about when students may return to the brick and mortar building, and how (one day per week, separated into smaller groups, shifted schedules) are only part of the factors that keep her up at night.

“I think this situation will only further exacerbate the gaps we already see,” she explained. “So that may mean drawing on this staff who’s better at helping a child catch up… meet them at letter ‘M’ while still getting the new instruction.”

Singular devices will also mean a need for more cooperation and structure from parents, she added, but that input and care is to be guided by all of the school system’s staff.

“It doesn’t matter to me if you’re an attendant, aide or teacher, everyone here is on an equal playing field and your opinions are valued,” said Lantz. “Everybody here was born to make an impact.”

One-to-one doesn’t solve the question of connectivity, Marietta City Schools Treasurer Frank Antill pointed out Tuesday, or whether each student has electricity at home, let alone internet access.

“And we are trying to look at the options for wifi hotspots, or putting devices out on buses, that has to be talked about with the finances, too,” he said.

But it does bring the conversation about strengths and education preparing students for the present business world to the forefront.

“We’re teaching more than just future CEOs,” said Lantz. “The future may look like rebuilding a car engine over a video chat, more and more businesses may be conducting meetings and work from home. This is how we prepare our students now.”

Antill said the goal is to have the new devices purchased and outfitted with needed software in time for an August start of the next school year.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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