Green Forest school board approves Chromebooks for all 6-12 students
Starting next school year, all Green Forest students in grades 6-12 can expect to have a personal Chromebook issued to them by the district.
Superintendent Matt Summers said last week that the move, approved by the school district board at its regular meeting March 15, is much needed.
“That was a lengthy discussion the month before,” Summers said. “We brought it back and looked at how we’re going to do our purchasing for that as well. Of course, that would be approved before we buy the items, so the purchasing part would come before the board again.”
Summers said the decision will affect approximately 650 students in the district.
“Many of our kids are submitting their stuff electronically,” Summers said. “It’s just the way of the world today, and I think it’s going be best for our kids to be able to have theirs with them all the time. Also, it helps a lot of the destruction and accidental damages because they know that’s theirs. If there’s a problem with it, they’re the one on the hook.
“We’re excited about the change and what it brings to our kids.”
Summers acknowledged that, as with many rural communities across the nation, a number of students in the Green Forest district don’t have access to broadband internet, but he said the district is attempting to address that issue where it can.
“I would say a low percentage [has access],” Summers said. “Of course, we’ve got those hot spots that we can check out to them as a part of this process as well. There are certain parts of our school district and certain parts of the county where you can’t really get cell service. We’re going to be talking through all of that as well.”
At the same time, the board also moved to discontinue virtual instruction for next year.
“After conversations with the Department of Education, other districts in our area and talking to our students, patrons and staff, we just don’t feel virtual education is the best delivery system for our students, and that face-to-face instruction is the way to go,” Summers said.
Summers said the state is not requiring schools to have a digital plan for next year as it did for the 2020-2021 school year. In response, Summers said, the district polled its teachers for their opinion on the matter.
“We did poll our teachers on this and 69 percent said it needed to go,” he said. “Twenty percent said maybe we should keep it in a different format and 10 percent said keep it as it is.
“So we’re opting out to not offer virtual classes next year. If you’re a student in the Green Forest district, you will be a face-to-face student.”
In other business, the board also approved a $500 pay raise for all district employees for the next school year, a measure expected to cost the district an additional $270,000 in payroll expenses. In addition, the board voted to extend its leave policy related to the COVID-19 pandemic through June 30, ensuring it would remain in place through the end of the school year.
The district also approved dates for various summer school sessions, including an English as a Second Language class for recent immigrants, which will begin on June 7 and run from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, for two weeks. A credit recovery session is scheduled to follow a similar schedule, while the district’s ACT preparatory session for high school students is set to run from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. from June 7-11.
Students in grades 9-12 who wish to participate will have to pay a $25 fee, which will go toward providing lunch for the participants.
“On average in this program, we have seen three points of increase on their ACT score,” Summers said. “That’s a lot of growth and we’re proud of that.”
After additional discussion, the board also voted to approve the calendar for the 2021-2022 school year. Presented with two options, the board voted overwhelmingly to start the school year on Aug. 8, 2021, with a scheduled end date of May 24, 2022.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 19 in the Green Forest High School library.