Edmonds School District to explore providing sound enhancement systems for all classrooms

Edmonds School DistrictThe Edmonds School District will look further into potentially providing sound enhancement systems for all classrooms throughout the District.

The Board of Directors supported the District’s desire to incorporate the technology that currently is being used by some schools.

District Instructional Technology Manager Kim Mathey demonstrated the amplification system during Tuesday’s School Board meeting.

The Lightspeed REDCAT system distributes sound evenly throughout the room so that no matter where students are sitting, they can hear that teacher just like they were standing next to them.

Teachers also benefit from the system in that they do not have to yell in order to be heard in the back of the room. A student microphone also allows teachers to hear students who are in the back of the room.

Mathey noted that many students, especially primary, come to school with colds and often these colds produce hearing loss. In addition, English Language Learner (ELL) students would benefit from being able to hear all sounds, Mathey said. ELL students score up to 30 percent higher on some word and sentence structure tests, she added.

Behavior and attention issues improved in classrooms that have a sound system. Academic scores also increase. If everyone in the class can hear the teacher, then that is going to make a difference, Mathey said.

Sound enhancement is incorporated into the District’s new classrooms/construction. What Mathey and the District brought to the Board was the idea of moving forward with the adding systems to all schools.

The cost of a system for one classroom is $1,200, though there are some volume discounts.

“It’s a given that it’s a technology that we’d like to see used,” Superintendent Nick Brossoit said.

The Board was supportive of the idea, but the issue of how the technology would be funded and how it would be implemented were issues for Director Ann McMurray.

If the District funded this initiative, she asked, “What do we have to say no to? It’s all tradeoffs.”

McMurray asked which classrooms would be outfitted first and which classrooms would receive the technology.

Mathey noted that College Place and Lynndale started with the primary grades first.

“I like the technology,” Director April Nowak said. “I imagine for students it would be a much better experience.”

Director Gary Noble said there was no question that this technology would be a positive in the classroom but that there wasn’t much discretionary money in the budget. He wondered about matching funds and other agencies, such as Verdant Health Commission, that might be able to help financially.

Noble also wondered about other things that might enhance the experience of children in the classroom that may be better than a sound enhancement system.

“I know this would help them,” he said.

Brossoit said that use of the technology for sound amplification makes a powerful difference in classrooms he’s visited where it was being used compared to those classrooms that did not have it.

“I was just amazed at the quality of sound for everyone in the room,” he said.

The District’s next steps will be to determine the number of classrooms that already have these systems and what the need is across the District .

The Board also voiced support for the District’s desire to develop a formal policy regarding School Gardens.

District staff and Director Nowak reported that there is interest among schools and teachers in School Gardens.

The District plans to bring together a group of community members, staff, partners and family members to consider a number of issues including:

-How are school gardens opportunities for students to apply and take ownership of a project? How do they fit within the District’s Strategic Direction?
-The logistics and maintenance of School Gardens, as well as liability issues of selling vegetables and produces.
-Long-term sustainability. Specifically, what happens when students leave? How does the garden continue to grow?

Executive Director of Business and Operations Stewart Mhyre said that “School Gardens could be an amazing instructional tool.” He also cautioned that it could be a very dangerous road to go down if not done right. The District has no product liability insurance in the event someone got sick from a vegetable that was sold.

“If this is a road that we decide we want to go down, let’s make sure we do it right,” Mhyre said.

Nowak agreed. The Board, she said, needs to decide if the District is going to allow School Gardens and if so how they are going to work.

“We need a policy,” Nowak said.

In other business:

-Karena Hooks, Diversity, Equity and Outreach Director, provided an update on the Board on Equity of Opportunity of Work. Equity teams are in place at 14 schools in the District (12 elementary, one middle and one high school). The goal is “to promote institutional change within the District and buildings in order to better serve the community and to ensure equitable opportunities for students,” Hooks said.

Hooks was involved in the crafting of new discipline letters that go out to parents. In the past, some parents have viewed them as punitive. The new letters are more family-friendly and have received good feedback from parents.

-The District did a first reading but did not take any action on a new policy on transgender students. The policy is based on model policies from the Washington State School Directors’ Association. District officials indicated that two transgender students — one in elementary school and one in high school —  are currently enrolled in the District.

Noble expressed some concerns about the wording of a dress code and McMurray had a number of questions about implementation of policies that she and District officials plan to meet later on to address. The new policy on transgender students will be brought back to the Board at a later date.

– In response to a community member’s concerns about the use of pesticides, Maintenance Manager George Marschall briefed the Board on the District’s policies, which are governed by the State and Federal Departments of Agriculture.

“Everything has to be licensed with both agencies,” Marschall said.

Marschall said that the District is using the same pesticides that other school districts are using. The District has not found any other school districts that have been able to control weeds without the use of pesticides, Brossoit said.

-The Board approved a contract with BNBuilders for General Contractor/Construction Manager services for the Lynndale Elementary Replacement project.

-The Board approved an Interlocal Agreement with Mountlake Terrace Parks and Recreation regarding the Terrace Park Gym and for the District to make use of the Pavilion amenities. The City’s expenses with the Pavilion and the pool have risen higher than the Terrace Park Gym’s expenses. The City conducts before and after school programs at Terrace Park, Mountlake Terrace and Madrona Elementary schools. On occasion, they also use the Mountlake Terrace High theater. An amendment adds these services to the agreement.

– By David Pan

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