(TNS) — As Boulder Valley School District in Colorado continues to grapple with parent concerns about technology use in school, the school board on Tuesday night got its first look at updated technology policies for students and staff members.

The new policies would prohibit both students and staff members from using cellphones to create hot spots, which bypass district Internet filters, except in emergencies or outages.

The district also is proposing adding the same cellphone restrictions that are already in the student handbook to the policy.

The handbook says cellphones must be turned off in class and at school events, unless school administrators allow their use.

“Schools can adapt the policy,” said Andrew Moore, Boulder Valley’s chief information officer.

The school board agreed to vote on the policy changes at its Aug. 14 meeting, then continue to talk about more changes after getting feedback from parents through a planned technology survey in the fall.

“This is going to be a policy that continues to evolve, there’s not a question,” said school board President Tina Marquis. “We may not get it exactly right this time, but it gets us moving down the path.”

Parents concerned that students are accessing inappropriate content online at school have lobbied the school board over the past year to tighten controls. Other concerns have centered on the overall amount of technology use.

Moore said, based on school principal feedback, the district plans to block gaming sites at middle schools in the fall, but continue to allow students to access social media sites.

Gaming would continue to be allowed at high schools.

A couple of school board members expressed concern that many middle school students aren’t 13, the age guideline used by most social media sites.

“I have a problem with the school district enabling them to do something they’re not supposed to be doing,” said board member Kitty Sargent.

But Moore said principals asked to keep access open because it’s so prevalent. Blocking them, he said, could push more students to try to access them on their phones through hot spots.

“We’re trying to teach in the reality of the world, which may not equate to the policies of the world,” he said.

For staff members, the new policy would require them to report observed access to inappropriate material and prohibits them from communicating with students through personal social media accounts. Communicating through professional accounts is allowed.

Storing students’ data in external storage providers, other than Google Drive, also will be prohibited, while emails will be deleted after three years.

“These are things that could damage our district,” Moore said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the last regular meeting before a summer break, the board also approved next school year’s budget and a resolution on sharing revenue with charter schools from tax increases approved by voters.

For technology, the budget includes about $400,000 to hire a second technology security-focused employee, to buy classroom management software to help teachers monitor screen use and to train teachers on using the software.

Altogether, the district is spending about $3 million on new initiatives and ongoing funding needs in its $295 million general fund operating budget.

The biggest expense is $1.3 million for a planned expansion of elementary counselors after hiring seven last school year. The $1.3 million pays for the equivalent of 10.5 counselors, plus a half-time assistant director and a full-time behavioral health specialist.

One-time expenses, totalling close to $4 million, include $2.5 million to add teachers to address staffing issues after the start of school and $100,000 for an information technology security audit.

©2018 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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