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E-mail for PR students comes with new responsibilities

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BY JEAN RUZICKA

Parents of Park Rapids middle and high school students have a “contract” to sign with their kids ­– “Acceptable Use Policy for Student E-mail.”

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The policy evolved from kids now having access to an iPad every day in at least one class, superintendent Lance Bagstad explained.

After considerable discussion, teachers, administration and tech staff agreed to set up Google ­– Gmail ­- accounts for 1,000-plus students who will become users of the district’s e-mail system. Each will have an e-mail address ­(name)@ parkrapids.k12.mn.us.

The move, Bagstad said, is efficiency-driven, saving server space, as well as being visionary. Eventually, he predicts, all kids in K-12 will be going home with an iPad in hand.

The intention is e-mails will be used for school-related projects, he said. Teachers will introduce the process. Via the district’s new website, a teacher can download a document on the Web that can be transferred to the iPad. A student could complete the assignment ­ - without using a single sheet of paper, in some instances.

The process affords communication with teachers, Bagstad said, citing an incident last winter in Renville when the school closed due to snow. His daughter at home e-mailed a teacher with a question. Three minutes later, she had the answer.

“The possibilities are endless,” he said. “This is the start.”

Monday, the school was closed due to inclement weather. But with this system, learning could conceivably continue.

This also allows students who are going out of town ­- the BPA students going to national competition, for example ­– to remain current with schoolwork. “Distance shouldn’t inhibit teaching and learning,” he said.

“Teachers are coming on board, taking it and running with it,” he said of enthusiastic implementation of iPads in the classrooms. “It’s improving instruction for kids. We’re at the cutting edge.”

The policy to be signed by parents and kids outlines parameters of a “responsible e-mail user,” including simple decorum and being aware its “use is a privilege, not a right.”

The e-mail is not guaranteed to be private; it will be subject to network monitoring software.

The contract “protects kids and the district,” Bagstad said.

In other action, the board:

n Approved the 2013-14 calendar which includes four early-release days for professional development. School will be dismissed at 1 p.m. Wednesdays, Sept. 25, Nov. 6, Jan. 15 and April 9.

“We need the time to collaborate to positively impact kids,” Bagstad said of the eight additional hours of staff development.

n Reported kindergarten round-up will be held April 5.

n Learned the PTA will be hosting a book fair April 1-5.

n Reported Century School will begin offering a salad bar three times a week.

n Learned Century Elementary’s Target Services will resume in June.

n Approved preliminary “program adjustments” for the 2013-14 school year that call for reducing $135,000 in administration and district costs and a $189,000 reduction in certified staff costs, including three retirements. This totals $325,000 in adjustments.

At this week’s meeting, board chair Sherry Safratowich stressed the district will never return to statutory operating debt, which it faced a few years ago.

Bagstad said these program adjustments were made based on enrollment, in keeping with “the least student impact.

“We have a fund balance but we must be fiscally responsible,” he said. “We are not cutting programs but right-sizing sections.”

n Approved Chad Harshmann as assistant boys track coach, Adam Schieck as baseball coach and the resignation of Steve Prenevost as girls tennis coach.

Volunteer baseball coaches Thomas Juberian and Michael Ryan were also approved.

The board also approved teacher tenure for occupational therapist Ann Johnson and hiring Gena Dempsey for special education in 2013-14.

n Reviewed PTA donations to date in March, which include sponsoring a bullying prevention program for grades K-4 and hosting a Cabin Fever Reliever event that included Bingo for Books and Bouncers.

“The PTA is essential in our program of educating kids,” Bagstad said.

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