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ACGC latest west central Minnesota school district considering iPad tablet technology for students

GROVE CITY -- Another rural school district is considering purchasing iPads for students.

The Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board agreed Monday to continue to study the viability of using the tablet computers.

The decision was made following a presentation from Dale Negen, technology specialist with the Renville County West School District. RCW began using iPads last fall.

ACGC Superintendent Sherri Broderius said there are many questions to address, including assessing whether the school buildings have the necessary infrastructure to support the new technology, and how to train teachers so they are able to use the technology in the classroom and be leaders for the students.

Fitting the mobile devices into the school district's budget is another issue to address and could be the "driver" in terms of how many grades -- if any -- will have access to the technology, she said.

Incorporating iPads is not without controversy, but Broderius said anyone who's a "naysayer" about technology needs to know that "it's just not going away."

Rather than ignore the new technology and its potential benefits, she said schools may be wise to "jump on board" and use the students' excitement and knowledge about technology "to our advantage to help teach them."

The board members are "very enamored" with the idea of getting iPads in students' hands, Broderius said. They intend to discuss iPads, as well as the budget, at a board retreat April 25.

"We're going to continue to look at it," she said.

The board on Monday also approved a two-year contract with the district's certified teachers. ACGC has the equivalent of nearly 61 certified instructors.

The first year of the contract, which is actually for the 2011-12 school year, includes a 1 percent increase.

The second year of the contract, for the 2012-13 school year, reflects a 4½ percent increase in compensation.

But the higher pay comes with four additional days of work, which is an extra week in ACGC's four-day school week schedule.

The extra days includes two additional student contact days and two additional professional development days, said Broderius, who said the added time is the highlight of the negotiated contract agreement.

"It's big news because it's big for kids," she said.

With the extra days added to the calendar, Broderius said ACGC students will have more teacher contact time than neighboring school districts that operate on a five-day week schedule. The school days are longer at ACGC than districts that operate five days a week.

Business Manager Dan Tait said the bump in pay and added work days also needs to be put in ACGC's historical context. He said in 2006 the teacher negotiations included less pay than what teachers wanted in exchange for having two fewer student contact days.

"We've been saving for six years by cutting back those two days," said Tait. "This is the flip side of the coin."

Meanwhile, the district's non-certified staff gave notice they want to negotiate a contract.

In other action, the board approved a dime increase in school meal prices that will take effect this fall and heard an update on cyber-bullying training for high school students.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750