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New Technology Initiatives, Trimester Division At Elementary Level Among the Improvements For 2015-2016
Mount Olive students will see the benefits of new instructional technology and elementary students will move from the traditional quarterly grading schedule to trimesters as part of the improvements slated for the 2015-2016 school year.
Additional instructional technology
The school district continues to invest in instructional technology to make education more hands-on, student-centered, and interactive. The new technology underscores the goal of the board of education and administration to make the school system a county leader in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.
At the secondary level, added technology will mean that every student in every core classroom will have a computer to use in class. A total of 400 new ChromeBooks have been added at Mount Olive High School for in-classroom use by juniors and seniors and about 400 laptops will be added at Mount Olive Middle School. These new machines should be configured and up and running by the end of September.
Some computers used at the middle school and high school last year will be moved to the elementary level; by October, every core elementary classroom in grades 2-5 will have one computer available for every two students.
More robots have arrived in the district as well. Last year, the district began using NAO humanoid robots in introductory robotics courses at MOHS as a way to help students learn programming basics. The two-foot-tall robots are fully articulated and are capable of walking, speaking, and dancing. Several new NAO robots will be added for the program.
Robots of another kind will be seen throughout the district – ones that will actually attend classes and share the hallways with students. Five VGo robots have been purchased that will be allow homebound students to virtually attend classes rather than receive specialized home instruction by a visiting teacher. The four-foot-tall robots have motorized wheels rather than legs, and are integrated with cameras, microphones, and video displays. Student-controlled from applications available for iPads or computers, the VGo’s allow students to see, hear, and ask questions just as they would if they were actually sitting in the classroom.
The benefit for students, besides emulating the actual school experience, will be many more hours of instruction. Currently the district provides about 10 hours of weekly instruction per week to each of the 50 or so homebound students.
The VGo’s also save the district money since teachers will not have to visit the students that virtually attend school.
Other STEM initiatives include the introduction of a new engineering course at MOHS, the purchase of additional interactive SMART boards, a 3-D printer for MOHS, Google cardboard virtual reality viewers, and flexible cameras for microscopes that will allow full-classroom viewing of magnified samples.
Trimesters at the elementary level
One of the changes being made this year will impact all students in grades K-5. The 2015-2016 school year will be divided into thirds instead of quarters. The move will provide students with more instructional time since it will mean less time spent taking tests and less time reviewing old material in preparation for testing. (Students will also spend less time taking internal assessments to monitor progress because the district is moving to a new testing system that makes measuring student growth and providing actionable data easier and more efficient.)
The first trimester will run from September 2 to December 4; the second will run from December 5 to March 23; and the last will run from April 3 to June 24 (last day of school).
New and renovated instructional spaces
A number of facilities improvements were completed over the summer and others will be implemented later this fall, including a major renovation of space at the high school.
At MOHS, a science laboratory and a new science learning space were added; the school’s photo lab and an art classroom were remodeled; a new track was installed and will be open for play this fall; ceiling tiles were replaced; and student restrooms and team rooms are in the process of being renovated.
At MOMS the stage floor is being replaced. Later in the fall at Mountain View Elementary School, a new surface will be installed in the school’s multipurpose room so that the high school’s robotics team can use the site for practices.
Other work completed this summer includes concrete and asphalt repair, a new bus parking lot, new sidewalks and repairs to the driveways at MOMS to keep both pedestrians and motorists safe, new water tanks for Sandshore Elementary School and MOHS, and new ceiling tiles at Mountain View.
A major renovation project at MOHS, expected to begin in November, will result in exciting new educational opportunities for students. The original school auditorium, a 20,000-square-foot space known as the pit, is currently underutilized due to its poor design. (In the upper level there are steep bleachers that were installed when the school was originally constructed.) The pit is now used as a wrestling room and for storage.
This space will be reconfigured into three separate learning areas. On the first floor, a state-of-the-art recording studio will be created along with an adjacent performing area. A sound engineering course is planned that will use the recording studio to teach students the fundamentals of audio design and production. A dance course is planned for the performance area.
A second floor will also be constructed in the pit space. Here, a maker studio will be created that will provide unique hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) opportunities for students.
A maker space is a relatively new concept in education and represents a true fusion of creativity, STEM, and fabrication. The space combines high tech manufacturing and computer equipment in one lab, enabling students to design, prototype, and produce products.
“The maker space will engender a spirit of creativity, community, and collaboration – the type of culture that you would find at Google or Apple,” said Dr. Larrie Reynolds, superintendent of schools. “Courses will be tailored specifically for the maker space that will bring students to whole new levels of thinking and innovation. When they leave the high school, students involved in the program will have advanced STEM skills that are in high demand in the workplace.”