April 21, 2014

The Kuemper Catholic School System will join the ranks next year of local public school districts that have implemented one-to-one computer initiatives. But rather than dictate a specific laptop or tablet, students will be able to bring their own device.

The initiative will cover grades six through 12, said school president Vern Henkenius. School officials recommend a Chromebook or laptop for middle school due to the high use of Google Apps and online resources, and a full laptop for high school due to the increased writing load. If high school students choose to utilize a notebook or tablet, they should purchase a keyboard attachment, said Bill Schrad, technology coordinator.

The screen size for any device should be at least 5 by 7 inches. Laptops should be no more than 3 years olds and have antivirus software installed.

For students who do not have their own device, Kuemper will provide Chromebooks for middle school students and a Dell laptop for high school students, available via checkout from the library throughout the academic day. These devices will also be available to any student whose own device dies during the day.

Students will not be allowed to take these devices home, said Henkenius. If homework needs to be completed on the computer, the students will be able to come to school early or work during study-hall periods.

The school still plans to have several mobile labs, as well as purchase an iPad mobile lab for use in math classes, said Schrad.

"We're trying to cover all bases," said Schrad. "The teacher is going to want a task completed - it's up to the student to determine how to research or complete it on their device."

The recommendation to adopt a bring-your-own-device initiative came from a school board technology subcommittee that visited Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools in Sioux City, St. Edmond Catholic Schools in Fort Dodge and Van Meter Community School District in Des Moines, said Henkenius. A survey conducted via middle and high school English classes revealed that most students already have their own devices, Schrad added.

The school devices will be purchased with part of the $650,000 set aside in the ongoing Kuemper Tomorrow capital campaign for technology upgrades and acquisitions.

The school board approved a roughly $260,000 contract with Prime Communications Inc. of Elkhorn, Neb., at the end of March to upgrade the wiring and network access points throughout the schools. This network infrastructure work should begin this spring and be finished before students start school in the fall.

For purchase of the devices, Kuemper school officials are working with Computer Concepts in Carroll and Brownbox, a Sioux City-based company specializing in refurbished computers.

Kuemper plans to host a parent-vendor meeting in June to allow parents to review the different devices, said Henkenius.

In other actions, the Kuemper board approved a series of tuition increases, part of the Kuemper long-term goal to rely less on shrinking parish assessments, said Henkenius. The assessments are likely decreasing due to the shrinking number of rural families, he added.

Kuemper's total budget is $6,851,813. Currently, 46.9 percent of the Kuemper budget is funded by parish assessments, higher than other schools in the diocese. The goal is to drop this percentage to 40 percent, said Henkenius.

New tuition rates are: $1,250 for optional preschool, $2,075 for kindergarten through fifth grade, $2,390 for sixth through eighth grades, $3,100 for freshmen, $3,250 for sophomores, $3,375 for juniors and $3,475 for seniors.

Teachers will receive a 2.75 percent salary increase for the 2014-15 school year. Nine teachers will also be leaving at the end of the year. They are:

Ann Carter, high school family and consumer science, serving five years at Kuemper; Debbie Greteman, fourth- and fifth-grade library, 18 years; Mary Greteman, food service and bus manager, 16 years; Barbara Hackfort, middle school Spanish and social studies, 38 years; P.J. Hedrington, elementary physical education, two years; Darlene Hinners, food service worker, 22 years; Mary Koester, extended learning, 24 years;

Mary Neary, marketing office, 14 years; and Jeanne Spieler, high school guidance and counseling, 43 years. Spieler also served as girls golf coach for 43 years, high school volleyball coach for 35 years and middle school volleyball coach for five years. Hedrington will become head football coach at Forest City High School.