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Laptops aren't all the buzz as Beverly students go back to school

Posted by Justin Rice  August 29, 2011 05:14 PM

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Beverly kids are back to school today but laptops are not the only new item on the district’s slate.

The first school district on the North Shore to mandate that all high school students use laptops during the day begins class today for ninth graders, sixth graders and elementary students. The rest of the high school will start Wednesday. Kindergarten registration is this week with classes starting next Tuesday.

“From laptops for every high school student to increased communication with parents, this school year will be like no other before it,” Superintendent Marie E. Galinski wrote in a letter to parents posted on the district’s website. “We are focused more than ever on improving academic achievement to prepare students for the challenges they will face in college and the workforce. We are working every day to provide engaging instruction in every classroom, and your involvement is critical to this effort.”

This year the district is also implementing the feedback of last fall’s survey of Beverly residents, educators and students by focusing on preparing students for the "jobs of tomorrow." The district is also implementing its five-year strategic plan this year. 

“Last year's surveys gave every Beverly resident, teacher, and student a chance to speak up about the issues that matter most to them,” Galinski wrote. “We developed a comprehensive plan to engage the community using valuable information learned from the surveys. We want to ensure that the whole community is working as a team to provide the kind of quality education we want for our children.

“I am committed to providing regular updates on the district's progress with our new Strategic Plan and sharing current and future survey results on the district's website. Future surveys for parents and community members will be available on the district's website.”

The district also has two new Briscoe Middle School principals in Amy Gerade and Terrence Conant.

Funding from two recent grants is also being implemented this year, including a $400,000 Race to the Top grant that will go toward professional development for teachers at the middle school over four years. And at the high school, a $1.8 million Small Learning Communities grant is providing professional development over five years to help install the brand new Freshman Academy.

But among all that new stuff, there’s no doubt that the laptops have gotten most of the buzz.

The school is leasing MacBook laptops to students for $336 a year, or $28 monthly payments. Two weeks ago students started to receive their laptops as part of a new face-to-face registration process at the high school and Galinski said it will take a month or so to work out all the kinks.

“It’s pretty exciting, we had a great reception,” Galinski said of the laptops during a phone interview yesterday afternoon.  “More than 1,000 kids are in the leasing program. We’re very happy.”

Galinski said the hardest part of the new program so far has been cutting off the deadline for registration. She said this year they made about 50 exceptions for students that for whatever reason missed the registration deadline, including transfer students. Students that miss the deadline are supposed to use loaner laptops for the year.

“It’s difficult the first year trying to not to make too many exceptions to the rule, it makes things difficult,” she said. “We did do some additional registration but that won’t happen next year.

“The face-to-face registration was different this year. Students came in and went from one station to the next, which went pretty smoothly. We’ll probably do that again. As far as laptops go we have to stick to deadline. We can’t be making a million exceptions because it’s too difficult to manage.”

Galinski has also pledged to start the school year with a renewed sense of community engagement.

“Let's continue to work together to make sure our children are getting the education we know they deserve!” she wrote to parents.

Justin A. Rice can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com.

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