School Matters: Technology Department Prepares for New School Year | education

Every summer, while students enjoy fun in the sun, public school districts across the state prepare for another school year.

Victoria ISD is no different in that during the summer months, departments across the district prepare for students and teachers to return to campus to learn and thrive.

VISD’s Technology Department was featured several times during the 2021-2022 school year for its work to improve access and equity to technology devices and technology infrastructure for the district and campuses. Chief Technology Officer Greg Dandio began 2021-2022 with the implementation of Schoology, a learning management system (LMS) specifically designed to help schools improve student performance while enabling equity and access for every student.

Today we will highlight just a little of what the VISD Technology Department does over the summer to prepare our campuses for another successful year of learning for VISD students.

Victoria ISD covers more than 606 square miles with two early learning campuses, 14 elementary campuses, seven middle campuses and an 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, summer time has been used by techs to clean equipment used by students on campuses and prepare campuses for the next school year. Laptop cleaning involves converting, cleaning documents and data, repairing damage and dealing with physical damage.

This summer, however, with the implementation of one-on-one technology in grades three through five on 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 install 150 chrome book carts on elementary campuses.

Chromebook carts are specially designed for elementary schools. They open from the top and have six different colored baskets for easy distribution to groups of students. Students will have chargers at home and the cart also has charging ports for a classroom charging station.

The tech will perform the same work for the one-to-one technology over the next two summers, but for different grade levels that will be phased into the distribution of the one-to-one technology. Once implemented in middle and high schools, these campuses will not have Chromebook carts, as students will use Chromebooks every night for homework and projects.

The technology department is also working to develop training processes, which is a year-long process. Everything the technology department is doing for the 2022-2023 school year was discussed and developed in September and October 2021 in collaboration with the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability (CIA). Training, Google Suite training, and Schoology training are planned and designed months in advance of implementation.

Working with technological devices is not the only summer project in which the VISD Technology Department is involved.

Another major summer project to prepare schools for the 2022-2023 school year is a major wireless upgrade to the District’s network infrastructure. Although supply chain issues have caused this work to run into the fall, the project will be completed by testing in December. During the 87th Texas Legislature in 2021, House Bill 3261 required state assessments to be administered online through the 2022-2023 school year. The wireless setup and wireless environment will support online testing requirements across the district. The wireless network infrastructure will be on a five-year upgrade schedule and is fully funded by the E-rate program. So on July 1st, don’t forget to fill out 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 modern telecommunications services.

Finally, two major projects being worked on this summer and scheduled for completion in the 22-23 school year are the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the 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 more than 20 years old and does not provide the advanced safety and security the District requires to protect students and staff.

In accordance with ongoing safety and security actions, the Technology Department will also install a new PA system that will have the ability to reach the entire district, the entire campus and sub-areas within campuses via the network to allow for regular announcements as well as emergency notifications. In addition, it is structured in a way that will allow principals to broadcast to specific areas and/or classrooms rather than to the entire campus. This will reduce class disruptions.

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 efforts to prepare the campus for another year of learning and teaching. Our VISD Technology Department and so many other departments work tirelessly throughout the summer and year to support us, and we are so grateful to have them as part of #TeamVISD.

Ashley Scott is the Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs for Victoria ISD.

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