When the next Somerset School District referendum comes up for vote in the near future, there will be many items which will benefit both the schools themselves and the community as a whole.
One such item will be funding for a one-to-one technology initiative which the district hopes to bring to fruition in the next few years. Each student from ninth through 12th grade would receive a device that would allow them to connect with their teachers, fellow students, and further enhance their educational opportunities.
"Our idea for our service learning project is to raise both awareness for the one-to-one initiative, which could be district-wide as well. We are doing this now because within the next year there is going to be a new referendum that will be put up for vote. If we can raise awareness of one-to-one and how it can change the school as well as the community, it would be more likely that the referendum would be passed," said SHS student Izaak Newhouse.
Newhouse — along with Marshal Hayes, Elijah DeJongh and Mika Krogmann — are focusing their group's AP Language and Composition class Service Learning Project on the one-to-one initiative.
"We were just thinking about the effect this could have on the students and that when you have students involved in school, and doing well in school, they are going to benefit the community. They are going to go out and get good jobs instead of messing around and getting in trouble," DeJongh said. "It would allow us to further the education of the students, which will result in better students and better community members."
The group got the idea for their project after several students took part in a first semester Chromebook pilot program for the one-to-one initiative through their chemistry class. The purpose of the pilot was to test out the Chromebooks and see how well it would go, whether students would find it advantageous to work with the Chromebooks and to suss out any problems
"I liked the simplicity of the whole thing and how easy it is to use," said Krogmann. "Everything here is centered around Google Classroom, which is so much easier and simpler. That's why I was really interested in bringing in Chromebooks to the whole school."
With one-to-one, everyone would be issued a Chromebook as freshman and use the computer (both at home and at school) throughout their high school career. Upon graduating, the outgoing seniors would return their Chromebooks and the computers would be given to the incoming freshman.
"It definitely follows our new core principles, which are educate, empower and engage. This is definitely going to be a big one since technology is becoming more and more integrated into education. When everyone at college is switching from pens and notebooks to using computers for notes and everything else, having that technology available at the high school level will greatly help students be prepared for college," said Hayes.
Another of the group's goals is to work on funding, so they have reached out to local companies to ask for donations. The group estimates it would take about 500 computers to give each student a Chromebook. The district would also need to make sure all teachers and staff are trained in Google so that everyone is on the same page. For the high school to go to one-to-one, it would cost around $150,000 to $200,000.
"That is one of the biggest reasons why this can fail is that everyone is not on the same page. That is why staff training is so important. That would be part of the funding as well, to train everyone to use it," Krogmann said. "Basically our whole school is using Google, so it only makes sense for us to do something like this. Making the school one-to-one just seems like the next logical step to make sure all the students are able to do their best."
According to DeJongh, the infrastructure for having all the computers online is already up and running after the school upgraded its internet systems in the last few years. The district has held a few teacher conferences over the last couple years with more than a hundred teachers online at once and the system was easily able to handle the workload.
"According to the people we have talked with at the district office, the one-to-one program is going to be coming in the next five years. So it is something that will happen eventually, so we are just trying to help pass the referendum to speed up that process so that we can be one-to-one more quickly," Newhouse said.
According to the students, the referendum will be up for vote some time in the next five years.