Mesa families at Eisenhower Elementary School learned Thursday what education may look like at the school next year if the district moves forward and creates a “creative and innovative” school on the campus.
About 40 adults and a dozen children attended the meeting, led by Mesa Unified School District Superintendent Mike Cowan.
Eisenhower, at 848 N. Mesa Drive, sits in the northern part of the campus. Cowan told the families that the school was chosen because of the low enrollment and the need to improve students’ academic achievement.
“This is also a school identified by the state as having the need to do significant academic improvement. We have some students who do well, but there is a significant gap between the performing students and the lower quartile of performing students,” he said.
Enrollment at the campus has dropped from 665 students in 2008 to 476 today, he said. Though there new housing planned for the area, the district hopes a new approach at the school may prompt new enrollment as well.
Infrastructure at the school would be improved to allow for wireless connections of tablets, laptop computers, smart phones and other devices. Those technology tools would be used by teachers to research-proven lessons, he said.
“We want to give kids at Eisenhower the opportunity to engage in education opportunities that are not at the other schools, yet,” he said.
Parents and family members asked questions about screen time, fine motor skills lessons for younger children and access to technology for parents who may not know how to use the devices their children bring home.
Cowan assured them that learning, not technology, will be at the center of all education plans.
The school’s library – with its books – would stay in place. Some lessons may still rely heavily on textbooks, while other times students could access Web-based materials.
Cowan pointed out that the state has cut funding that pays for textbooks for the last seven years.
“So we have to look at an alternative to the traditional textbook. It’s not just MPS as we’re all racing to find out how we can give our kids new, current materials, but not necessarily in textbook form, he said.
The school could have iPads available as early as late spring to give parents a lesson in how they work. Students may find the transition easier because how much technology is already out there.
“We see this as an opportunity to engage in thoughtful use of technology to increase student engagement,” he said.
Mom Charly Wilson said she’s worried the technology will be “too much” at one time for the students.
“I’m worried it might not work for every individual person,” she said. “I’m worried it’s replacing what we really need, which is more teacher time. But I really have hopes it will work.”
Juanita Wilson, grandmother to Charly’s children, also raised questions, but believes Cowan answered the biggest one.
“It makes me nervous, but my grandchildren know how to do video games when I can’t do left from right,” on the games, she said. “I get all that. It’ll be interesting to see how they advance.
Brandon Lopez, 10, a fifth grader at the school, said he’s excited about the potential changes.
“I think it’s going to be cool. I think the technology is going to help us more,” he said.
The district is making changes to “right size” the district after its lost thousands of students the past few years. The initiative, dubbed “Defining the Future,” includes changing learning on campuses to attract more students and closing campuses as neighborhood schools.
Next week, the governing board will hold the first hearing on closing Chandler’s Jordan Elementary School. The district is proposing using that campus to hold several special education programs and moving the neighborhood students to other campuses.
The changes will continue. Cowan said the ideas that work at Eisenhower could be transferred to Mesa’s other campuses in the future. The district is already moving to make wireless connections a possibility at all campuses, thanks to a voter-approved bond measure.
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