Online, digital learning take off at Cocalico

By on August 22, 2012

By: MICHELLE REIFF Review Staff, Staff Writer

Cocalico School District is off to a roaring start in the area of technology for the 2012-13 year.

Cocalico Connections, the district’s new online learning program, has 18 students enrolled for the 2012-13 year — six middle and 13 high school — Ella Musser, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, told the board at its Aug. 20 meeting. When students in the high school taking additional courses are added, the grand total enrolled is 39.

"Those numbers are changing all the time. We still have parents calling and saying, ‘Can I still sign up?’" she said.

Cocalico Connections launched to provide full-time online learning to students. Anyone enrolled in Cocalico Connections has to meet the same graduation requirements and will be awarded a high school diploma. A variety of options are available: partial in high school, partial at home, full-time in high school online and full-time at home.

"We’ll know more next year about the program and how it functions best because it is a new venture," said Mr. Kent Sweigart, director of technology services.

In addition to online learning, Sweigart announced that the district will once again allow digital devices such as eReaders in school. This was done for the first time last year. A student is required to have a sponsoring teacher in order to bring in such a device.

"This past year we have had well over 100 students mostly in the middle and elementary schools," he said. In the high school, Sweigart said tablets and laptops were used.

Sweigart read an article recently that said, "By 2013 the average American will have up to seven devices that are somehow connected to a network, satellite, etc."

Recognizing that mobile devices can help with learning, he said the district has been looking for ways to incorporate this.

"We as administrators realized that we don’t want the confusion between cell phones and iPod Touches because that is a communication device," he said. He added that a pilot was done in math classes using a free application on iPhones, iPod Touches and tablets. The alternative would have been a $120 calculator. All the uses were teacher-directed.

Sweigart noted another possibility that could be considered in the future if the budget allows is a program called One-to-One, which is currently being used in some other districts. It provides a laptop for each student.

Also at the meeting, David Davies, assistant to the superintendent for administrative services, relayed that the district received a letter from Pennsylvania Counseling Services stating that due to funding cuts, the budget for the Student Assistance Program (SAP) will be cut by 65 percent. This statewide program is designed to assist school personnel in identifying issues including alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and mental health issues which pose a barrier to a student’s success.

"We’re still not sure what this means to the school district," he said. What he does know is that this may affect how often an SAP assessor will be available to meet with the students in the district. For example, one could be present only 11 days out of the month as opposed to every day as in the past.

He said this is of particular concern at the beginning of the school year when students have been away from the school environment for a few months and then return, sometimes with problems that need to be addressed.

Also at the meeting, district teachers shared endeavors that took place over the summer months and what to expect this fall.

On the high school level, the building project should be finished after Labor Day. In the middle school as well as Denver Elementary, all classrooms and students will be in their permanent locations for the first time following last year’s construction of the new wing. Reamstown saw the return of Camp Read-a-lot and math tutoring and Adamstown teachers came up with ideas to showcase student talents.

In other business:

? The bus schedules, drivers and transportation contracts were approved. More staff records are being checked and more third party testing is being done this year at the district due to limited testing at drivers centers.

? Contracts were approved for one Spanish teacher, nine support staff, volunteers to help with fall sports programs and teachers to be added to the substitute list for continuous employment. Seven supplemental contracts also were approved as well as special education supplemental contracts.

? Student handbooks were approved.

? A new bid for wrestling mats which is $6,703 less than the previous one has been accepted. The mats have the capability of being refurbished in the future. More COCALICO, page A11

About Ephrata Review