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Tablet computers set to be used in District 518 classes

WORTHINGTON -- Technological learning devices --more specifically, iPads -- will be in the hands of nearly all District 518 students within the next two years following action taken at last night's regular meeting of the ISD 518 board of directors.

"This will help technology become more integrated into the curriculum," said Superintendent John Landgaard of the move to spend roughly $530,000 to purchase and/or lease iPads and attendant equipment for teachers and students in the coming few years.

The first phase of iPad implementation begins this spring, as many teachers will receive the devices to begin preparation for classroom use. Phase 2 involves fourth- through ninth-grade students using iPads beginning next fall, while Phase 3 will occur when remaining grades have them in hand by fall 2014.

"We should have full implementation of the learning devices with our students in two years," said Landgaard.

While all seven board members clearly approved of that technological advancement, there was more obvious dissension over the question of bus service in the district for the coming school year.

"We received three quotes of estimated annual costs for transportation, and we've done some negotiating," reported Dave Skog, director of management services.

The result: current contractor American Student Transportation offered the low bid of $941,336, with Bud's Bus Service requiring $1,147,080 and Bruce Kempema asking $1,172,336.

"Bud's Bus did drop a little, but we have some additional questions for American Transportation based on information from our attorneys, and we're not quite ready to make a recommendation," Skog said.

Added Landgaard, "We've had conversations, and there are some potential other issues with our current company, so we want to do our due diligence and homework on these quotes and come back to the board with a recommendation at a later date."

Board member Brad Shaffer queried whether the bidders were aware of District 518's efforts to construct a bus garage/shed.

"I think it's because of the shed that we got these three quotes," responded Landgaard, explaining that outlying bus companies tend to be reluctant to wade into others' home territory.

Board member Joel Lorenz then expressed his discomfort with American Transportation, despite their low bid.

"I keep hearing, 'We want better service and a better contract,'" said Lorenz. "The complaints I've had about them from parents these past two years are way beyond the point where I'd accept them, period.

"I don't care if it's higher priced -- I'm sick of this, and I won't support them [American Transportation] if they don't do a better job."

Scott Rosenberg concurred, noting, "We've added programs and services in other areas and found a way to make it work financially. To me, transportation for our students should be safe, and it should be a priority for us.

"There are a lot of areas where I have questions, and I can't support American Transportation either right now, despite the cost difference."

"We don't feel we have enough information yet to make a decision on what will serve our district best," Landgaard said, "but the question I have for the board to consider is, what positions will we not fund to cover the $180,000 cost difference?"

The transportation contract and bids will be further reviewed and discussed at a District 518 Operations Committee meeting before returning to the full board for a vote later in April.

In other business, Skog said there were "no unusual expenses or revenues" during the past month on the financial front. With all District 518 board members in attendance, the consent agenda, all meeting minutes from the past month and other routine items were unanimously approved.

SEH Inc., was ratified as the architect/engineer for the bus terminal project, with an anticipated fee of $77,000 for services rendered.

"The paperwork to purchase the property for the bus terminal is not yet completed," Landgaard said.

A few questions were also asked about the proposed new assistant principal position at Prairie Elementary, with Landgaard and Prairie Principal Josh Noble explaining the change came about with the retirement of a lead teacher who supervised the Title 1 area.

"We have talked about this off and on for the past couple of years, and the cost of the position will be covered under Title 1 funds," said Noble. "The new assistant principal will also help with after school programs and targeted services."

Worthington Middle School (WMS) Principal Jeff Luke offered a brief report on his building, mentioning the school's first goal is to ensure quality academics and attempt to improve test scores.

"We want to see improvement and growth in test scores on an individual student basis," he said.

Luke said the school also has a physical education and health goal, with an assessment partly being addressed when students are timed on a mile run. A third goal involves reducing incidents of bullying.

Luke thanked the board for allowing WMS to have an interventionist teacher --Scott Burns -- who works with nearly 100 students daily, in small groups, on improving math and reading ability. And Luke said WMS is enthusiastic about the coming iPads.

"We are ready to go with the learning device initiative," he pledged. "Whatever is coming, we're ready for it."

In his superintendent's report, Landgaard passed around two samples of proposed new letterhead for the District 518 office for board input, which students in a WHS graphic design class prepared.

In addition, Landgaard said he had received a letter from the Round Lake/Brewster school district about developing a tuition agreement for transferring high school students.

"It definitely looks like some of those students will be headed to Worthington High School," confirmed Landgaard.

The North Central Accreditation review is in process locally, with an exit report due to be presented at 1:30 p.m. today in the WHS Media Center.

Another upcoming meeting of interest -- discussion and revision of the master plan for the Worthington sports/recreation study -- will take place at 6 p.m. April 17 at the Worthington Fire Hall.

Several District 518 administrators, as well as a handful of visitors, were in attendance at the Tuesday evening board meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Board Chair Linden Olson praised the following recent developments in District 518: Prairie Elementary Science Fair participants and winners, the successful WHS First Robotics team, the WHS state-qualifying Knowledge Bowl team, the WHS gymnastics team for receiving the Team Gold Award for academic and athletic performance, state wrestling champion Anthony Luft, state wrestling finalist Carson Hagen and state gymnastics participant Paige Kinley.

The next regular meeting of the District 518 board is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. April 16 in the Worthington High School Media Center.

For more information about recent proceedings of the District 518 board of directors, visit