Bismarck School Board members discussed a plan Monday to ensure all schools in the district are supplied with technology equipment, such as projectors and classroom audio systems, by the start of the school year. The board also discussed the current state of playground equipment at each school.
"I really do believe technology and the playground equipment are very key to our schools, and we need equity in those areas," school board member Heide Delorme said Monday.
In April, the school board decided to address equity issues in schools after a parent at Northridge Elementary School came forth with concerns about disparities in playgrounds, technology and other classroom equipment, as well as the substantial cost for parent teacher organizations looking to make upgrades.
As a result, Bismarck Public Schools Technology Department and Facilities Department audited the current state of buildings, and drafted timelines for possible improvements. The audit found some elementary schools had classrooms without audio systems, including Centennial, Highland Acres, Roosevelt and Solheim.
"We need to get (audio systems) in there," said Superintendent Tamara Uselman after the meeting. "It's so much easier on the teacher to not have to shout all day."
Some schools were able to upgrade their technologies as a result of Saxvik Elementary closing.
"Technology equipment from Saxvik Elementary School was routed out to go to the schools where the Saxvik children went," Uselman said. "We repurposed all of that equipment and that helped us to get more equity, if you will, because there were some buildings that the Saxvik children were heading to that didn't have technology, so that technology did follow the kids."
The board also discussed the current state of playground equipment at schools in the district.
"With most of our playground, we're in pretty decent shape," Darrin Scherr, business and operations manager for the Bismarck School District, said Monday. Most playgrounds don't need to be replaced for about 20 years, he said.
Scherr said funding for playground equipment is split over three ways between the PTOs, the school district and the park district.
Delorme said she'd like to include playground and technologies upgrades each year when the board crafts a budget.
"I think one of the big things that came out of this was how much the PTOs were having to fundraise, and the pressure that was conveyed to us as far as fundraising was concerned," said board member Scott Halvorson. "To me, that's the biggest issue."
In addition to improving playgrounds, some schools are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and do not have elevators, Scherr said. To be in full compliance with the ADA, elevators would need to be installed in Prairie Rose, Northridge, Will-Moore, Pioneer, and one would have had to been installed at Saxvik.
"As a lot of people want a lot of things, I would argue that an elevator may be more important than a playground," Scherr said.
The board will continue to discuss equity issues at its next meeting.
On Monday, the school board also elected Matt Sagsveen as president of the board and Karl Lembke as vice president. The board swore in a new member, Rick Geloff, as well as incumbent Heide Delorme.