Mount Sinai gets smart with new program

Mount Sinai gets smart with new program

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Mount Sinai High School will receive Apple computers to replace old ones if the district’s Smart Schools Program proposal passes. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Two years after New York State passed the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014, the Mount Sinai School District is getting up to speed with the act’s requirements.

The school district, which will receive $1.6 million, presented its first Smart Schools Program proposal last Wednesday, Feb. 10. The bond, which originally passed on Nov. 4, 2014, allocated $2 billion for New York State school districts to help students succeed by improving educational technology and infrastructure.

While the district needs to update various technologies around the campus, upgrading the school’s broadband speed is a top priority. The act also required schools to have 100 megabytes of broadband speed per 1,000 students. The school needs to increase its speed by 200 megabytes to accommodate the approximately 2,500 students living in the district. While the increased speed will cut down computer startup time, Mount Sinai School District Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said there’s more to the act than meets the eye.

“Whenever New York State does something to give you money, you’ve got to look in your rearview mirror like ‘why are they doing this?’” Brosdal said. “We all figured out that testing’s coming online.”

The high-speed broadband is one of many network infrastructure improvements the district will make if the state accepts its proposal. A large portion of the money will go toward replacing old classroom equipment — the district will replace computers older than three years, Notebooks or Netbooks older than two years and laptops that are more than seven years old with new Apple computers.

The district will also replace Smartboards, projectors, printers and other equipment used on a daily basis as failures occur if its proposal is passed. Investing in backup systems will also help the district prepare for any technical glitches that can occur during future online tests. In addition to Apple computers, additional classroom equipment includes tablets and tablet stands for students and teachers.

Phillipa Calamas, Mount Sinai resident and mother of four, said with the limited tax cap funding technological improvements is difficult.

“I’m well aware of the restrictions on the school … with how much actual money they have for things like technology,” Calamas said. “So it’s really good to hear they’re getting the money.”

Calamas was one of two parents on the Smart School Committee, led by Ken Jockers. Jockers, the director of information technology in the school district, said the improvements may take several years to establish if the proposal is passed. The plan would be to make changes when school isn’t in session.

These changes may include updates to campus security, including an upgraded or new surveillance system, and color-coded picture IDs and lanyards for teachers and faculty throughout the district’s three schools.

Mount Sinai, like other school districts, will receive its money for these projects when it starts making the improvements — the school must borrow money from banks to fund the upgrades and new projects and will receive money from the government after completion. While state aid and money lost to the Gap Elimination Adjustment may have covered Mount Sinai’s Smart School’s upgrades and projects, Jockers said the district is just happy knowing that there is a way to improve the schools, especially with new equipment.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford the changes,” Jockers said. “So this makes it a lot easier.”