School budget wish list focuses on tech
Updated 11:32 pm, Sunday, December 11, 2016
NEW CANAAN — An app to track school buses, a learning management system and virtual reality headsets may all be a reality for New Canaan students next year. As budget season approaches, Superintendent Bryan Luizzi listed these technological advances among some of the items he would like to see factored into next year’s budget.
According to Luizzi, about 82 percent of the New Canaan school budget goes toward teacher salaries and benefits. The majority of the rest covers things like school maintenance and transportation. But the superintendent said there is some wiggle room to add new programs and technology to the schools.
“There’s a few percentage points left for innovation,” Luizzi said. “We’re looking at the opportunity to work around more technology in the curriculum.”
Included are virtual reality headsets to give students a chance to interact with the material they are learning.
“Instead of reading about the crossing of the Delaware, they put on a headset and can sit next to Washington,” said Luizzi, listing virtual lab experiments and even exploring on a cellular level as other possibilities for the headsets. “I think the experiential opportunity is going to transform the way students learn.”
The district has been sampling products and looking at vendors for the program, which would likely start in middle school and high school science classes.
Luizzi would also like to see more Chromebooks — laptops that utilize web-based programs — available in Saxe Middle School. Currently, teachers can sign out a cart of Chromebooks for classes to use for the day. Luizzi would like a cart in each classroom, so students can use the netbooks seamlessly in each class. Cloud technology would allow students to use different Chromebooks throughout the day while accessing the same materials.
“We’re looking at that model at the middle school to allow them to seamlessly use technology,” Luizzi said. “This lets curriculum be the focus, as it should be. Technology is not the event; the event is learning.”
In addition to the VR headsets, Luizzi would like to integrate a learning management system across the district so students from kindergarten through 12th grade can submit assignments and access class materials in one place. He is working with the district’s transportation director to create an app to help parents track their child’s school bus.
Besides technology, the district is looking at staffing increases to accommodate the eight- grade class, the largest in the district, as they move up to the high school. Luizzi said he would like to add additional support staff, as well, particularly math support at the middle school.
“We’ve been meeting, talking and looking where our needs are,” Luizzi said. “We work hard to be good stewards of our district’s money.”