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Lake Forest plans to purchase laptops for its youngest students

The Lake Forest Elementary Charter School principal Mardele Early highlighted some new developments in the school’s technology plans during the school’s March 21 board meeting.

The school will purchase 151 new laptops, paid for with a grant from the Orleans Parish School Board. Lake Forest already has laptops for its third- through eighth-graders that the school purchased itself. With this addition, the school will now have laptops for its pre-kindergarten through second-grade classes as well.

The school was also approved for an E-Rate grant from the federal government. The grant covers percent of purchases for replacing technological equipment.

Early commended technology coordinator Lynn Simmons for her work in restoring and recycling used or broken equipment. Early said that staff members drop off broken devices or components with Simmons, who attempts repairs in many cases.

Early then described the school’s phone messaging technology. Lake Forest uses Blackboard Connect to send pre-recorded or computer-generated phone messages to parents. Early said that the system keeps track of who received the message, and even informs her of which recipients hang up on the call.

A few members chuckled as Early described how she personally would call each parent who hung up on the call and politely ask them what had happened. She joked that a talk from the principal had proven an effective deterrent against parents hanging up on those messages in the future.

Early gave the board an update on the school’s schedule. The school will be closed July 1-16.  She said that the entire staff would be off.

“Everyone goes on vacation at the same time, so that I won’t call them,” Early joked.

Aug. 1 will be the first day back for Lake Forest’s teachers. On Aug. 8, grades 1-8 begin school, with pre-K and kindergarten classes beginning Aug. 15.

She said that a draft of the calendar had been completed, but they had held off due to changes in standardized testing. Students in the 2013-14 school year will have to take the Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, which Early said was more focused on writing and long-answer questions than other exams.

Preparing students for more writing means more paperwork for teachers, which for Early means more days preparing them for the workflow. The school currently schedules 174 instructional days, but Early said they may go down to 171 or 172 in order to add three days of professional development throughout the year.

The meeting was attended by members Denise Williams, Gina Dupart, Donald Pate, and Brian K. Richburg, Sr., and president Lee Caston. Also present was operations manager Robin Gorman. Absent were members Windi Brown and Leila Eames.

The board adjourned at 3:11 p.m.

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