School Board approves new personal electronics policy, unveils budget projections

Monday, April 8, 2013 | 10:27 p.m. CDT; updated 10:18 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 9, 2013

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board unanimously approved a new technology policy that will allow students to use personal electronics in the classroom for instructional purposes such as taking notes, doing research and accessing online textbooks.

This change coincides with the district’s move to incorporate online academic opportunities and the expansion of wireless Internet into all district buildings.

Superintendent Chris Belcher pointed out that students are already using personal electronics to aid their studies.

“Many students are acting as a college student does, where devices are their complete organizational tools,” Belcher said.

This school year, personal electronics policies vary across schools, but students are generally allowed to use their devices during free times such as lunch. Students’ use of electronics during class has been limited in the past because of the potential for disruption.

Board member Darin Preis questioned how this policy would impact students who do not have their own device.

“We will never expect that a student has to have a device that is self-supplied to access course materials,” Chief Academic Officer Sally Beth Lyon said. “That would be against policy.”

Any required online course materials will be downloadable, so students without Internet access at home can download the items while at school and then take them home, Lyon said.

Belcher and Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley updated the board on the district’s budget plan for 2013-2014 and long-term financial projections. 

Belcher said the district anticipates more spending in 2013-2014 than previous years because of the operational costs of Battle High School, set to open in August. The district also anticipates growth of 292 students next year.

“We have a lot of one-time costs in there with the opening of Battle, so we’ll recoup,” he said. “I feel good about this.”

According to the presented budget plan, the district requires $9.5 million more in funding for 2013-2014 than the current year. Quinley said the district will not experience large deficit spending next year, but a trend for future years will begin.

“This is planned deficit spending,” Belcher said. “We were pre-thinking what we're going to do.”

The presented five-year budget funds school schedules, continuing education and the current employee benefit plans, Belcher said. In addition, it also supports nine new teacher positions to accommodate growth and the cost of two new elementary schools.

The budget does not leave room for new programs in schools.

Belcher said board members will receive a final copy of the budget June 10, and a public session will occur in June as well.

The board also:

  • Voted to elect Christine King, formerly the board vice president, as the new president. Board member James Whitt was elected as the new vice president. Board member Tom Rose finished his two-year term as president. He will remain on the board.
  • Adjusted the boundaries of Lee and New Haven elementary schools so that the land formerly home to Regency Trailer Park no longer falls within Lee Elementary lines.
  • Approved three adjustments to Belcher’s contract. First, the board added another year to his two-year contract. Second, the board added three vacation days to his compensation package. Third, it increased his yearly salary from $195,992 to $198,992.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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