Grant helps ESSA, Clear Spring School expand tech infrastructure

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

By Samantha Jones

With a little help from the Carroll County Community Foundation, Clear Spring School and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts are growing their relationship.

Clear Spring and ESSA applied together to receive a $1,250 Giving Tree grant to expand their technology infrastructure. Jessica FitzPatrick, Clear Spring’s head of school, said Clear Spring split the money with ESSA to improve technology at both campuses. The grant has been especially helpful at Clear Spring, FitzPatrick said, because the technology infrastructure had been inadequate for some time.

“A lot of our routers and access points were outdated by nine years,” FitzPatrick said. “Technology moves fast, so this grant is huge for us. It’s just necessary that our technology keeps up with our students.”

A professional visited the school, FitzPatrick said, and assessed how the infrastructure could be improved. The school has 20 Chromebooks for students to use, FitzPatrick said, and it was difficult for everyone to log on at the same time before the grant money came in. Today, FitzPatrick said, the students can use computer programs to have an individualized educational experience. The programs they use, FitzPatrick said, are responsive and help teachers track student progress.

“We do a lot of hands-on work,” FitzPatrick said, “but this gives them the opportunity to have individualized practice.”

As technology evolves, FitzPatrick said, education does too. She said Clear Spring teachers are constantly evaluating how to best use technology in the classroom.

“One of the things I’ve been saying to students this year is, ‘Are you using your technology, rather than being used by your technology?’ “ FitzPatrick said.

That means showing students how to use their phones appropriately, FitzPatrick said.

“That is our purpose as a school, to help people become good citizens in the community where they live,” FitzPatrick said. “We’ve done a lot of reflecting on our technology, which means we needed to boost our ability to use it on campus.”

FitzPatrick said Clear Spring was excited to work with ESSA, saying the organizations have been in a partnership for a few years now.

“I really like the different nonprofits working together in town,” FitzPatrick said, “because we are a community and that’s what we do.”

Kelly McDonough, executive director of ESSA, said she is thankful to have Clear Spring as a partner. ESSA is using the grant money to expand its technology infrastructure, McDonough said, so that the wifi covers the entire campus. McDonough said ESSA is building four duplexes on the back edge of the campus so visiting instructors have a place to stay when they come to Eureka Springs.

“We’ll have multiple instructors there at once,” McDonough said. “They’ll have that collegial atmosphere. We’ll also be ramping up into a robust residency program so we’ll be able to invite multiple resident artists to come in and stay for an extended period of time.”

Anyone who would like to donate to the construction is welcome to do so, McDonough said, and get a building in their name. For more information on how to donate to the project, call ESSA at 479-253-5384.

ESSA has needed a technology upgrade for a while, McDonough said.

“People who live in this area are not going to be surprised to hear the wifi signal is not there,” McDonough said. “It takes some doing to extend a wifi signal to the back of that property, and that’s a big part of what we’re going to use this grant for –– to expand our wifi to the back of that new expansion so we can cover the entire campus with that.”

The best part of the grant, McDonough said, is continuing to work with Clear Spring School.

“Our mission in so many ways is so similar,” McDonough said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get to work together. We’re sort of like the Clear Spring School for grown ups.”

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