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Rockdale schools get technology upgrade

CONYERS - Students in Rockdale County Public Schools are gaining access to their so-called "21st Century Classrooms" earlier than school officials had anticipated.

Originally, the school system planned to have all its classrooms equipped with high-tech materials by 2010, but the technology department has pulled ahead of schedule since the sales tax-funded project picked up steam earlier this year.

"They are moving as fast as possible ... so they can be used," said Gene Baker, executive director of school improvement at RCPS.

Technology workers have completed the advanced electrical wiring, so now every public school in Rockdale County is ready for the new technology; some of the older school buildings had to have extensive wiring to allow for the new materials. Furthermore, all schools are wireless, so teachers and administrators can transport their laptops around the schools and have all of their data with them.

Baker said barring the technology department running into any glitches, workers hope to have a good number of the 21st Century Classrooms finished by this December, with more to be completed over the summer and the first part of next school year.

So far, all fifth-grade classrooms and math and science classes in the middle and high schools are equipped. Additionally, purchase orders are complete for third- and fourth-grade classrooms so installation can begin, while middle and high school language arts and social studies classes are being surveyed for the installation process, Baker said.

RCPS is completing the technology project by grade level in the elementary schools and by subject area in the middle and high schools because it is more effective for the entire team to have the same technology, he said.

The 21st Century Classrooms vary by grade level and schools, but some may include projectors, Internet connections with high bandwidth, voting machines, document cameras, interactive screens and boards and other ways for students to interact with each other and their teachers.

Each classroom upgrade costs between $5,000 and $7,000 - depending on the grade level, equipment and age of the school - to cover wiring, equipment and installation.

Even when all of the schools are 100 percent equipped with 21st Century Classrooms, the technology project will not be complete.

"We will keep doing this as long as the funds are coming in," Baker said.

Schools such as the Rockdale Career Academy and Conyers and General Ray Davis middle schools, which are the schools that were built with high technology or had some high technology programs piloted there, are getting upgrades so they can be equal to other schools getting the newer technology now. In the future, all schools will need to be upgraded at various times to remain on pace with advances in technology.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.