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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Salem schools use stimulus money to update classrooms with new technology

Friday, April 2, 2010

One of the the school district's stimulus money purchases was for a communication tablet to be used by a special needs student who cannot speak. The tablet speaks for him, allowing him to communicate and participate in classroom activities. Photo by Niki de Soto
In today's technology-laden society, computers and other high tech devices are necessary pieces of the education puzzle. To make sure that Salem students have all the advantages that the latest in technology has to offer, the school district has used government stimulus money to update its classrooms.

The money received by the district had to be used in three areas: State Fixed Stablization Funds, IDEA or special education, and Title I technology.

"We were able to go to our staff and ask them, 'What kind of purchases would help you increase student achievement in your classroom?' and they're very happy that we were able to do all of this at one time," said Salem Superintendant Ken Rich.

The school purchased laptop computers for all of the teachers, and equipped each of the classrooms with a projection screen, document camera and media cart.

"They love the document cameras," said Salem Elementary Principal David Turnbough. "Overall, their reaction has been very positive to the new technology."

The district also upgraded the server for the computer network, installed a new library checkout and inventory system, fenced the kindergarten playground, and purchased resource room materials, library books and band instruments.

"We bought some adaptive equipment for our handicapped students, such as special chairs, and a communications board for a student who is non-verbal," said Rich.

One of the teachers who works with the non-verbal student, Ms. Massey, says the new device has made a huge difference in the student's day to day life.

"The tablet speaks for him, to allow him to communicate and participate in classroom activities," said Massey. "He even has a part in a class play, by pre-programming his lines into his tablet and "speaking" them by pressing the correct button as his turn comes around. He can tell people hello, when he's thirsty, when he's hungry. He can talk about his feelings, if he's mad or happy, and he can look at any word, like when he's reading a book, and he can type the word in and the tablet will tell him what the word is. He just loves to use it to talk with people."

A little over half of the funds received were used towards the new Physical Education and Fine Arts building.

"We have a guaranteed maximum price of $955,761," said Rich. "That figures out to about $81.66 per square foot. That's a very good price, and I'm proud to say the building won't cost the taxpayers in this district one extra penny." The scheduled completion date for the new building is Aug. 1.

The district also purchased a special needs bus, which should be delivered in time for the beginning of the next school year.

"We used the stimulus money I think the best that we could to improve education, which is the bottom line," said Rich.

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