Every summer, while students enjoy the fun in the sun, public school districts around the state prepare for another school year. Victoria ISD is no different in that during the summer months, departments across the District are preparing for students and teachers to be back on campus learning and thriving.
The VISD Technology Department has been featured several times throughout the 2021-2022 school year with their work to improve access and equity to technology devices and the technology infrastructure for the District and campuses. Technology Director Greg Dandio kicked off 2021-2022 by implementing Schoology, a learning management system (LMS) specifically designed to help schools improve student performance while enabling equity and access to every student.
Today we will highlight just a bit of what the VISD Technology Department is doing throughout the summer to prepare our campuses for another successful year of educating VISD students.
Victoria ISD covers over 606 square miles with two early learning campuses, 14 elementary campuses, seven secondary campuses, and alternative school campus. The Technology Department not only assists these campuses with their technology needs but also works with athletics, the maintenance department, and the Victoria ISD Fine Arts Center.
Historically, the summertime has been used by technology to clean up equipment used by students on campuses and prepare campuses for the next school year. Laptop clean-up includes reimaging, clearing documents and data, repairing any damages, and addressing physical damages.
This summer, though, with one-to-one technology being implemented in grades three through five at the elementary campuses for the 2022-2023 school year, summer work looks a little different. In addition to cleaning laptops, technicians are also working to enroll 3,000 Chromebooks for students and installing 150 chrome book carts at the elementary campuses.
The Chromebook carts are specifically designed for elementary schools. They open from the top and have six different colored baskets for easy distribution to student groups. Students will have chargers at home, and the cart also has charging ports for an in-class charging station.
Technology will implement this same work for the one-to-one technology over the next two summers but for different grade levels that will be phased into the one-to-one technology distribution. Once implemented in middle and high schools, those campuses will not have the Chromebook carts as students will use the Chromebooks nightly for homework assignments and projects.
The Technology Department also works to develop processes for training, which is a year-long process. Everything the Technology Department is currently doing for the 2022-2023 school was discussed and developed in September and October 2021 in collaboration with the Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability (CIA) department. The training, Google Suite training, and Schoology training are planned and designed months before implementation.
Working with technology devices is not the only summer project in which the VISD Technology Department participates.
Another big summer project to prepare the schools for the 2022-2023 school year is a major wireless upgrade in the District's network infrastructure. Although supply chain issues have caused this work to bleed into the fall, the project will be completed by December testing. During the 87th Texas Legislature in 2021, House Bill (HB) 3261 required state assessments to be administered online by the 2022-2023 school year. The wireless setup and wireless environment will support districtwide online testing requirements.
The wireless network infrastructure will be on a five-year upgrade schedule and is fully funded by the E-rate program. So, on July 1, be sure to complete the Free/Reduced Meal Application and/or the Income Survey; this qualifies the District for E-Rate funding to provide schools and libraries with affordable access to advanced telecommunications services.
Lastly, two big projects that are being worked on throughout this summer and are scheduled to be completed during the 22-23 school year are the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Public Address (PA) system. VoIP is a technology that will allow staff to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular (analog) phone line. The District is making this transition because the current system is over 20 years old and does not provide the advanced safety and security that the District requires to be in place to protect students and staff.
In line with the ongoing safety and security actions, the Technology Department will also be installing a new PA system that will have the ability to reach districtwide, campus-wide, and sub-areas within campuses through the network to allow for regular notifications as well as emergency notifications. In addition, it is structured in a way that will enable principals to broadcast to specific areas and/or classrooms rather than throughout the entire campus. This will reduce disruptions to classes.
Come fall, when you walk the halls and hear students clicking away on their Chromebooks, we'll be able to see firsthand the Technology Departments' summer work efforts to get the campus ready for another year of learning and teaching. Our VISD Technology Department and so many more departments work tirelessly throughout the summer and year to keep us going, and for that, we are grateful to have them as part of #TeamVISD.
Ashley Scott is the executive director of communications and public relations at Victoria ISD.