Rochester Technology

Tech in Schools: Fairport Central Schools have robust network, but no BYOD policy

In a world where the effects of using technology in the classroom have increasingly become apparent, some local school districts in Rochester are preparing themselves for some big changes.

The Fairport Central School District is no exception.  With nearly 7100 students and 1800 students (presumably using these technologies) attending high school, they have had to make some changes in recent years.

Fairport High School

When it comes to technology and education, Fairport High School has made great strides over the years, including:

  • In 1996, the district was given permission to begin airing over the Freeport Area Community Television channel 12 (FACT-12).  The FHS Morning Show broadcasts every morning at 8:10am.
  • In 2009, Fairport High School began offering a course in game design and development, presumably one of the first schools to do so in New York State.
  • In 2010, the high school building was renovated to include 802.11n wireless networks for students and faculty, as well as high-speed fiber optic cables for wired computers.

Now, after working on it for two years, the district now has wireless in all district buildings (it has four elementary schools, three middle schools, and one high school).

Under the district’s current policy, students and faculty are only allowed access to this wireless network during the school day, with limited use after 3pm.  However, the district still allows 2.4ghz guest access in select areas of Fairport High School, available only during after school hours.

Access to the wireless network is still only for use with district-approved electronics.

BYOD Policy

As of 2011, when the district policy was last updated, many students will have to contend to what seems to be a limited use policy on cell phones and other devices.

Even so, there does not seem to be a district-wide policy regarding the use of cellphones and other personal electronics in the classrooms, according to the district code of conduct.  The only school that seemed to ban cell phones outright was Dudley Elementary School.  Students at Dudley are “not permitted to carry cell phones unless granted permission from the building principal. Permission will only be considered when extenuating circumstances warrant, again at the discretion of the building principal,” according to the school site.

“This is a topic that all schools locally and nationally are dealing with as the use of personal electronic devices grows exponentially.  The Board of Education Policy Committee is in the process of developing policies that address the use of personal electronics in our schools,” said Mary Jane Yarmer, the Communications Officer in the district, said in an email.

Balancing performance and guarantee quality for the students during the hours of instruction on devices offered through the district, such as computers.

“However, we are investigating the details surrounding BYOD design accommodations as we value increasing connectivity and access to digital resources as instructional support,” Yarmer added.


Community Centers, Schools and Free Speech

I mentioned this D&C article yesterday, flagged by a reader, about Fairport School District’s decision to say “no” to a production of the play RENT, citing the school’s sense of the appropriateness of the play for a high school. 13WHAM’s Liz Schubert also reports on this story, which seems to be making quite a stir in the two journo’s comment sections.

Let me begin my comments with a slight correction to Liz’s story:

The Parent Teacher Student Association provides the space free of charge, receives some of the profits, and uses that money for student scholarhips.

This is not entirely accurate: high schools are public buildings paid for with tax money. As such, they are free and open to the public with two notable exceptions: during regular class hours and on election nights, where access is restricted. As such, the public has the right to stage whatever productions they see fit inside the building and no special permission is necessarily required. Here in East Rochester, I know of a few people on my street that use the local high school gym equipment on off hours.

At the same time, the superintendent of schools has an obligation to ensure that the public property he’s responsible for is used in an appropriate manner. In fact, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of what a superintendent does, that is precisely his job description. So personally, I am not challenging Jon Hunter’s propriety in deciding what uses are and are not acceptable.

What is objectionable in Hunter’s decision is for a superintendent to arbitrarily decide – based solely on his own interpretation of the content of the play – that the play is inappropriate for public space outside of the school season. What’s worse is what the two subjects cited as beyond the pale for the school are: drug use and homosexuality. What about these two subjects is so innately untouchable? It seems like in this modern world, these are exactly the types of subjects we should be challenging our kids with in schools.


So Much for Community Centers, eh?

A reader of the website, Alan Smithee (if that is his real name, as they used to say on Night Court), alerted me to this article in the D&C. Apparently, taxpayer funded schools get to decide what is and what is not appropriate for theater productions in the summer.

Raises some interesting questions which I would like to discuss further. But it’s Saturday night and the wife is calling me downstairs. Tomorrow, then. . .