Assistant Superintendent Mary Wegner told Sitka’s School Board on Tuesday that the training stems from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Federal education money is being funneled through Alaska’s Department of Education.

“The reason the state said only middle schools can go for this grant is because the requirement is that all eighth graders must be technology literate. So the goal is to really focus on middle school even though we know that you have to do so much prior to middle school by the time they get there.,” she says.

Five middle school teachers are being trained to integrate technology into classroom teaching to help boost student achievement. Wegner says they’ll help students become more engaged in the learning process. That could include video conferences with experts in a particular field of study.

The district is also contributing between $25,000 and $30,000 toward equipment for the program. That includes laptop computers, interactive whiteboards with projectors, and document cameras.

Teachers have already begun formal training. Blatchley Middle School Principal Joe Robidou says they’re learning as they work.

“They’re using it to the best they can. They’re feeling it out. And with the professional development that we’ll see here, instead of just being an add-on, it will actually be more integrated with how they normally teach,” he says.

Schools are not yet graded on technological literacy, as they are proficiency in English or math. But Wegner says they soon will be.

School board President Lon Garrison says the program should make a real difference.

“I’m really excited that this is more than just equipment and a fad. I’m really excited that it’s professional development, that it’s raising the bar and the level and letting everybody know that this is a different way of doing business. And it’s not just the next little gadget,” he says.

Training will continue this fall and other teachers may become involved later.

Robidou says staff will also discuss what they’ve learned at a statewide technology in education conference.

Sitka is also getting almost a quarter-million dollars for after-school programs.

Superintendent Steve Bradshaw announced the grant at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. He said $243,000 in federal funds will come from the 21st Century Learning Program. It will be spread over three years.

Business Manager Dave Arp says the money will support after-school tutoring and activities. It will also fund a summer program for fifth-graders making the transition into middle school.

The district had a similar grant that ended several years ago. He says some programs continued for a while, but have since ended.

The school board also announced its funding priorities for the coming legislative session at Tuesday’s meeting.

They include: a covered shop area for Sitka High and a concrete pad at Pacific High for use by physical education programs. Track improvements and better high school parking are also on the list. So are a greenhouse and teacher furniture for Blatchley Middle School. Another project is playground equipment for Keet Gooshi Heen school.

The projects are separate from those on the October municipal ballot.

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