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In January, Carroll County Public Schools will see a new visitor management system that aims to increase school security. Plus, two new digital tools could become staples in the classroom in coming years. And the finishing date for a planned renovation to Westminster High School’s science rooms has been moved up.

School visitor security

Visitors to schools might not notice much difference when they scan in and get their badges, but by the end of January, CCPS will have a new visitor management system that officials hope will improve security.

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The system will be installed in all CCPS schools and the Central Office headquarters.

The contract for the current Easy Lobby Visitor Management System was expiring, and staff recommended that the Board of Education approve a bid to switch to Raptor Technologies.

They felt the old system, which was installed in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, was due for replacement in February.

The Raptor system’s new features include “a dashboard to track school emergency drills; various tools to enhance emergency response; the ability for notifications to be sent to key staff members; and the ability to automate the student/parent reunification process,” according to a staff memo included with the agenda.

Another upside, according to Jon O’Neal, chief operating officer for CCPS, is that the old system required technology services personnel to go in person to install updates to the system in each of the 40 schools in CCPS. The new system allows updates to be pushed out over the network all at once.

“For this system, you want it to be as current and up-to-date as possible," he said.

The system costs $101,885, and there is an annual fee of $53,300 for the licenses that begins in the second year.

The annual fee is an increase of about $14,000 over the old system. But CCPS did not ask the company to give new pricing on the current system, and it is likely the price would have increased anyway, O’Neal said.

The school system did a pilot with the new system in the Central Office, and several staff members reviewed it before recommending the bid to the Board of Education.

Digital tools

CCPS staff brought bids for two digital tools, which they chose in order to work alongside the newly introduced data dashboard for educators and administrators.

PowerSchool Performance Matters Analytics displays student data for teachers and administrators. The school system is in the process of training staff in the dashboard, which rolled out in the fall.

For teachers and administrators, it displays student data on performance in academics, discipline, attendance and other areas.

Two licensing bids approved in January will add a “learning management system” and a digital assessment tool to CCPS’s toolbox.

Both new systems come from the company Schoology, Inc., which Jason Anderson, chief academic, equity and accountability Officer, told the board will be acquired by PowerSchool, the makers of the dashboard system CCPS is already using.

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The new systems aren’t going to take over all at once or right away. It requires staff training and gradual implementation.

Anderson said, “It’s a lot like buying a brand new Cadillac. You don’t really understand all of the bells and whistles.”

The Learning Management System (LMS) was chosen by a committee with representation from Media and Technology, Curriculum and Instructional Resources, Teacher Leadership Development, Teacher Induction and Staff Development from CCPS.

Many industries use LMS to host online training for employees. In CCPS, officials also hope it will make curriculum more accessible to students and the public.

In some instances, they envision that digital resources in the LMS will replace textbooks in the classroom.

The bid was for $74,350 for the first year; $83,023 for the second year; and $104,550 for the third year. The total bid amount approved is $261,923.

The other bid was for Performance Matters Assessment & Analytics, an additional license costing $61,355.

Anderson said they hope that by making performance assessments for students digital, grading will be more efficient for teachers. The school system may also see some savings in copying and materials costs for pencil and paper work.

School board member Patricia Dorsey said it sounded like a tool that could be used to personalize learning for students.

Anderson said, “Truly the point in investing in this is so that we don’t have to wait till the end of the year to find out how our kids are doing, not that we do that right now. It’s pretty impressive [that] after a student takes an assessment online, it shows up pretty simultaneously into the dashboard. Teachers can see how that’s done pretty quickly rather than spending, honestly, hours grading.”

Westminster High science room renovations

Planned renovations for the science rooms in Westminster High School will be moved up to the summer — welcome news for staff members.

The deadline for the work’s completion is Aug. 20, a deadline that will allow CCPS staff to order cabinetry and other building elements beforehand to be ready for summer installation.

The earlier construction deadline was an added item in the school system’s bid from Keller Brothers Inc. that totaled $2,009,800.

The new timeline will also mean less disruption for school staff, according to Jim Marks, supervisor of construction for CCPS.

“It really helps us with not having to move around the rooms and swing stage other rooms," he said. "The staff there at Westminster High has been terrific through our tough planning stages, trying to figure out how we make these rooms get built.”

The project cost is less than what was planned for in the CCPS CIP request, or Capital Improvement Program, which covers new construction, renovations and additions, as well as replacement of major building systems.

The plan allowed for a construction cost of up to $2,750,000 out of the $3,146,000 overall project cost.

The project fell under the “Look of the Future” initiative statewide for high school science classrooms. The renovated science laboratory spaces will have better integration into the technology CCPS is using today and will be an environment more consistent with the professional laboratories students might eventually work in, according to the CIP.

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