Keeping us connected: Levy dollars deliver technology for Battle Ground students

handing out Chromebooks

Now more than ever, technology plays a critical role in education. Whether it’s providing access to computers and hardware, educational software and online curricula, or installing infrastructure upgrades within our school buildings, technology services are instrumental in delivering an equitable, quality education to Battle Ground Public Schools’ nearly 13,000 students.

Thanks to funding collected from the local schools levy, the district is able to provide every student in grades 3-12 with their own computer through the one-to-one computing initiative and has upgraded several technology systems in recent years, including district-wide Wi-Fi networks, servers, security and intercom systems.

During the pandemic, technology has played an even larger role in keeping students learning and engaged. Remote learning dramatically increased the need for access to online curricula and learning materials and immediately created the need for additional Chromebooks for students in grades K-2 to take home (who normally share devices using carts of Chromebooks in the classroom).

Since March 2020, BGPS has distributed more than $500,000 worth of mobile hotspots to keep students connected to the internet at home, and has provided families with a wealth of online learning apps and home learning resources. The district has also purchased licenses for the GoGuardian parent app to help keep students safe on their school-issued devices. This application provides web-based filtering and parental controls on school-issued devices at home.

“Battle Ground Public Schools is committed to providing students with the tools needed to succeed in modern classrooms and work environments,” said Scott McDaniel, the district’s director of technology. “Providing this level of access prepares our students for today’s careers, increases student engagement, and enhances collaboration between students and their teachers.”

In addition to providing funding for 2,200 Chromebooks each year and thousands of licenses for learning resources, levy dollars also cover necessary upgrades to the district’s technology infrastructure. Last year, BGPS upgraded its Wi-Fi networks and replaced the intercom systems in all district campuses and offices. In the next six months, all of the district’s core server systems will also be upgraded and replaced.

Replacing the Wi-Fi networks improved connectivity and internet speeds, but more importantly, enhanced the district’s online security capabilities. Replacing the district’s core server systems is important for a few reasons. These servers backup the vast amounts of data required to operate a large school district, and the old servers have already lasted beyond their projected lifespans.

Continuing to use outdated server systems poses a few key issues. Because the servers are beyond their warranty, the district would have to purchase extended coverage from third parties to guard against potentially catastrophic data losses. The district would also be at risk of seeing hardware failures that would be disruptive to an effective learning environment.

The old intercom system also lasted well beyond its expected lifespan and was recently replaced. The new systems include upgraded hardware and software that allow for messages to be broadcast simultaneously in every district building, which is important for security management in case of an emergency.

Battle Ground Public Schools is dedicated to being responsible with public funds and taking advantage of available resources, such as the $300,000 federal E-rate grant that helped pay for the completed network upgrades.

“Just about everything tech-related in the district is made possible thanks to levy dollars,” said McDaniel. “Without it, both classroom and remote learning would look very different.”

The Educational Programs and Operations Levy will be on the Feb. 9, 2021 ballot. This is a replacement levy covering 2022-2025 and is not a new tax.

While neighboring public school districts have separate levies to pay for technology, capital projects, transportation, and educational programs, Battle Ground has just one levy that covers all essential programs, including our technology initiatives. More information is available at www.battlegroundps.org/levy.

Read more stories about BGPS’ tech initiatives and projects:

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