Henry County Public Schools

Henry County Public Schools  board members and staff look at pictures of kindergartners on their first days of school during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Henry County Public Schools has 7,000 iPads, 3,000 laptops, 550 desktops, 420 interactive boards, 300 Apple TVs and 50 document cameras.

Elizabeth Adkins, HCPS’s director of technology and information, reported those figures about the distribution of technology in the school system during Thursday’s meeting of the Henry County Public Schools board.

During an introductory video to the report, HCPS students talked about using technology and devices.

“I would literally change to another school” if his device were taken away, a kindergartner said on the video.

HCPS uses two device-management systems to keep track of devices issued to students: Meraki, which is being phased out, and JAMF, which is considered a “very robust system for the same cost.”

One of the uses of Meraki and JAMF is to track where each device is at any given time, allowing the school system to find it if that device was lost and know when it has been taken home by the student, Adkins said.

Devices had been being updated remotely, but that has not been as dependable, so now iPads are updated manually, even though it takes longer.

Several staff members are necessary to set up and distribute devices to students. Technicians get them ready for the new school year by replacing screens and installing new cases.

ITRT staff (Dottie Betts, Mona Rawley, Beth Williamson, Drew Lowery, Donna Hicks and Liz Ann Russell) erase all old content and settings and update the iPads for the new school year. Then, throughout the year, they take turns stationed at the different schools to handle any issues that may arise.

The media specialist of each school assigns an iPad to each student and helps distribute the iPads. To each device they assign a code and serial number, which enables it to be tracked.

Technicians Alex Clifton, Billy Craig, Linda Helms, Tammy Noe, Mike Rorrer, Rene Snodgrass and Zane Snodgrass are assigned to schools to help with issues and also move around to different schools as needed.

Some additional elements of Adkins’ report:

  • The school system uses a program called PowerSchool for parent-school communication.
  • Network Administrator Rob Landon has finished 18 hours of study through Redford University to become certified in cybersecurity. Systems administrators Jason Beavers and Irv Betts have started the same 1-year certification program.
  • HCPS encourages staff to use Google Backup and Sync, which allow staff to store and upload files from one device to another.
  • All online platforms are hosted in the Cloud, and an IT security response and recovery plan is in initial stages.
  • Looking ahead, the IT department will continue the transition to JAMF in three grades. The transition is being done gradually, taking on JAMF as the licenses for Meraki expire.
  • Procedures for setting up iPads are being planned. Because that’s a great deal of work on a small staff at the start of the school year, personnel may be assigned additional days during summer break to work on it. The school system has “11,520 devices, and all these devices have to be set up and gotten ready for the new school year,” Adkins said.
  • Each student has a county email assigned to him or her, which is needed to set up the username and password for each device, Adkins said. However, elementary students are not able to use their email accounts, and the older students’ email accounts only send and receive mail from other county accounts, such as teachers, administrators and students. The school system has full ability to monitor those accounts as desired.
  • A committee meets once a month to review and accept or deny any apps to be used on school system devices. That would include, for example, educational programs teachers would like their students to use.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting:

  • The board approved $239,864, the same amount awarded by the Virginia Department of Education, for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
  • The school system approved awarding the employee benefit services to Pierce Group for 1 year for $42,000, with the ability of subsequent renewals each year for 5 years. The Pierce Group specializes in administering employee benefit programs to public sector clients such as school systems and governments in Virginia and North Carolina.
  • County schools are recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month with activities and programs.
  • HCPS is following a statewide initiative to promote high attendance. The levels of school attendance and success are highly correlated, HCPS spokesperson Monica Hatchett said. Encouragement of high attendance is encouraged among staff as well as students, she said, adding that 23 staff members will be acknowledged for perfect attendance last year.
  • The Superintendent’s Report included a video showing pictures of all the system’s kindergartners. It was announced that each family is mailed a picture of their kindergartner on the first day of school, which the families have told staff they appreciate.
  • During the comments from board members, Ben Gravely said people have brought up concerns about the high schools’ locker rooms, particularly at Magna Vista. Fans are being run for longer amounts of time to dry them out, and recently school staff spent a Friday evening and a Saturday cleaning and disinfecting locker rooms. Coaches were instructed to get uniforms washed.
  • Gravely also suggested that the schools division’s recently adapted concussion policy also apply to any organizations that use school facilities.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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