Broken Arrow Students Test New Technology On First Day

Thursday, August 20th 2015, 8:57 pm
By: Emory Bryan

School bells started ringing Thursday in the Tulsa, Union and Sand Springs and Broken Arrow districts.

The first day at Broken Arrow was the debut of a new technology initiative; and around 11:00 Thursday morning, every ninth grader logged on to a new computer.

8/12/2015 Related Story: Broken Arrow School District Gives Laptops To Ninth Graders

It's the sixth year Broken Arrow Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall has walked the halls on the first day - and one of the first times, lately, the district has started a year without a new building.

Steady growth in the district fueled an expansion - three elementaries, a middle school and high school addition in five years.

"We've done a lot to get caught up, and our next stage is to stay ahead of the growth; it's about three to four percent, depending on the year,’ Mendenhall said.

Growth like that naturally means constant change, and this year the biggest change is the move to a totally digital textbook system for ninth graders.

Every freshman got one, and they'll keep it until they graduate. Eventually, every student from sixth grade up will have one.

Last year, Spanish teacher Angie Collier tested out the technology, and now her class doesn’t use textbooks.

“It was a helpful tool for the classroom,” Collier said.

The laptops, they say, work just as well.

“Other than just little glitches that happen that you fix super quick, and the kids catch on how to fix those, really it wasn't a problem,” she said.

The laptops weigh less and cost less than the six textbooks the students had last year.

While he was pleased with the new technology, Mendenhall worries about the growing shortage of teachers - the district is starting off with five unfilled positions.

"You could really tell a difference. Broken Arrow has never had a problem finding quality and qualified staff for the classroom, and this is the first year we've really had to deal with that," he said.

Broken Arrow's growth right now is mainly in the earlier grades, where each grade level has about 1,400 children, which eventually means even more kids in high school, and more demand for space.