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NLS levy seeks $1.5 million for technology; voters to decide

Anna Monson, a fifth-grader at NLS, uses an iPad at the NLS middle and high school library during a research project on American Indians. NLS officials will ask district voters to approve a $1.5 million technology levy during next month's election. It's the district's latest effort to transform how students learn. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

The leaders of the New London-Spicer School District want to transform how students in the district learn and are asking voters to approve a $1.5 million technology levy to equip the district for that educational change. "We have a lot of technology, but we are using it at an enhancement level," said Superintendent Paul Carlson. The goal is to have technology that moves from simply enhancing the learning process to transforming the process for students.

"There is technology available now that is truly transformative in the classroom," Carlson said at Monday's school board meeting.

The district is asking voters to approve the levy, for up to $1.5 million or $500,000 per year for three years, in a referendum on Nov. 8. Voters will cast their ballots at a single polling place in the NLS High School gymn between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. that day.

The additional tax impact is estimated at $37 annually per $100,000 of home value on residential property and $28 annually on agricultural property including the value of the house, garage and one acre of land. The impact on business property is estimated at an additional $21 annually per $100,000 of value.

The goal is to equip the district's classrooms, teachers and students with a blend of technology, including iPads or similar tablet computers, interactive whiteboards in classrooms and amplification sound systems in classrooms. The district also seeks to have better equipment in computer labs and a dependable network system, plus offer the training and support needed by the teachers to ensure integration of the technology into the classroom, Carlson said.

The district hopes to add cloud technology -- web-based applications and data storage on the Internet -- to the infrastructure in the future.

"We need a dependable, reliable backbone," Carlson said.

Ironically, Carlson's point was illustrated Monday at the school board meeting as he and Deb Solsrud, a parent in the district who works for a school survey company, attempted to connect to the Internet to present survey information to school board members.

After several attempts on a laptop computer, Carlson connected using his iPad to show the survey results. The survey found about 80 percent support for the levy and technology improvements by the more than 400 survey respondents.

At the current time, NLS computer labs are not equipped with enough memory to support all of the students in the lab logging on at the same time to take required state assessment tests, Carlson said.

An estimated 75 percent of the levy funding would be used for devices, the network backbone and infrastructure needs, while about 25 percent would go for training and personnel costs.

While the levy is for three years, the impact on learning at NLS will extend well beyond that timeframe, Carlson said. The district will help students create and learn in new ways, such as through podcasts, video production and e-publications, and students will also be able to access free or lower-cost textbooks on the tablet computers.

"This will propel us into the future, and we need that," Carlson said.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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