MCA spent summer getting tech upgrades
Editor's note: This is the second article in a series on local schools preparing for the new year.
MOUNT CARMEL - Mount Carmel Area School District spent the summer preparing for the future - a digital future.
A new wireless network was installed in the junior-senior high school and a policy for students to bring their own electronic devices into school was established.
"Mount Carmel Area is now 'BYOT' - bring your own technology," said Superintendent Bernie Stellar. "Students are more comfortable with their own devices."
Technology coordinator Gary Trefsger led the installation of the network. Installed at some 30 locations throughout the building are what looks like smoke detectors with a glowing ring, but are actually wireless routers that send out the signal for Internet access.
You won't see students, though, constantly glued to their devices, doing things like checking their Facebook statuses. The new policy that regulates usage stresses that connecting to the school's network through their devices is a privilege, not a right.
"First of all, faculty members have the choice to allow the technology into their lessons," Stellar said. "All of the devices have to be approved by the technology department and students must follow our rules of conduct."
Also, students cannot access their own Internet service provider; no voice, video or image capture applications can be used for non-educational purposes or without prior written teacher's permission, and no student can use another person's device or network log-on credentials.
When school opens Monday, the district will begin its second year of a schoolwide positive behavior program, which Stellar said has paid dividends.
"The teachers are telling us the program has been a major help. Last year, they saw a positive climate emerging in both the elementary and junior-senior high schools," he said.
New track open
Athletes and walkers are getting their exercise now that the new athletic track is open to the public at the Silver Bowl; everyone is encouraged to use it.
"We have some new guidelines," Stellar said. "The public should only use the outside lanes and walk in a clockwise direction, the opposite direction that what we do during track meets."
The biggest rule change is that no wheeled transportation of any kind is allowed on the track.
Security in place
While many schools continue to beef up security in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in December, Stellar said Mount Carmel Area continues with its school resource officer (SRO), Brian Carnuccio from the Mount Carmel Township Police Department, and its multi-camera security system. Carnuccio's employment continues on a month-to-month basis, an arrangement approved by the board after the expiration of a grant that helped pay for the position at the end of the year.
"We have had it in place for the last five years and it has worked well for us," Stellar said of the SRO.
The district is also expanding its "response to intervention program" to the entire district to help keep students from falling behind in classwork, by providing different levels of support.
Same start time
For the first time, all students from kindergarten to sixth grade will be on the same full-day schedule. The school day will begin at 8:45 p.m. and students will be dismissed at 3:20 p.m. Pre-K Counts classes will still have separate morning and afternoon sessions.
The junior-senior high school day will start at 7:40 a.m. with homeroom period and end with dismissal at 3:02 p.m.