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New computers arrive in Concordia Parish schools

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Harvey Cowan Jr., one of the technology facilitators for the Concordia Parish School  District, helps install 25 new computers in a lab at Vidalia High School Monday morning. Cowan and technician Tommie Bell are working to set up 300 computers in various classrooms across the district.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Harvey Cowan Jr., one of the technology facilitators for the Concordia Parish School District, helps install 25 new computers in a lab at Vidalia High School Monday morning. Cowan and technician Tommie Bell are working to set up 300 computers in various classrooms across the district.

VIDALIA — Some students at Concordia Parish schools will soon be learning and testing on new computers while others will replace their textbooks with Apple iPads as part of a district-wide technology upgrade project.

Superintendent Paul Nelson said the first shipment of 150 Dell computers, which will first be installed at the high schools, arrived Friday and were already being installed in the computer labs Monday.

“We’re going to roll out a total of 300 over the next couple of weeks, and we do have a little priority list of where we’re distributing those out first,” Nelson said. “Since the high schools will be taking (end of course tests) online, we wanted to get those installed first and make sure they were up and running.”

The next schools to receive new computers from the shipment will be Ferriday Lower and Upper Elementary schools.

Monterey High School and Vidalia Lower and Upper Elementary schools will also receive computers as the district continues its technology enhancement project, which was approved by the school board in December.

The board approved a plan to spend $1 million on the project, which will replace outdated computers and provide iPad tablets to classrooms across the district. The funding comes from local sales tax revenues.

The iPads, Nelson said, will play a role in helping move the district forward into a new generation of learning by having the tablets eventually replace textbooks.

“If events are happening around the world like a volcanic eruption in some place, all those things can be updated to the iPads instantly instead of waiting for a new textbook,” Nelson said. “We used the magnet school as a testing ground for those things, and we’re happy with the results there to start pushing it out to the middle school science and high school geography classes.”

Discovery Education, the system the district uses for its science curriculum, is a digital program for grades six through eight and will be taught on the iPads.

And with many of the computers in the district being five to six years old, Nelson said the upgrades to the computer desktops will also be welcomed with open arms.

“With a lot of these state tests going away from a paper and pencil test and going toward online, we need to make sure we have the proper infrastructure in place for our students,” Nelson said. “We’re just very excited and thankful that we’re in the position financially to be able to do some of the things, because a lot of other school districts are not right now.”

Other improvements to the district’s technology include upgrading its wireless infrastructure to handle the increased traffic from the new computer and iPad usage. Those costs will be paid for through funding of a federal program called E-Rate.

“When you have the iPads and things like that, you have the advantage that you can go anywhere with them,” Nelson said. “So we want to make sure we have the wireless infrastructure to where if a teacher wants to take the students to sit in the quad or take them on a virtual field trip with the iPads, they can do that.”