A new three-year technology plan unveiled earlier this month by Bexley City Schools calls for the district to increase students' access to digital learning tools.

The district's recent survey of central Ohio school districts found Bexley ranks near the bottom in terms of the ratio of students to technology devices, Brad Petit, Bexley's technology director, said during a presentation about the plan.

The plan was discussed during the Bexley school board's June 10 meeting.

"Our device fleet in the district, the amount of devices we have for students, simply isn't enough for what teachers want to be able to do and be innovative," he said, "and if we want to embrace technology innovation, that has to be increased."

To complete the survey, Petit said, he contacted every Franklin County public school district as well as St. Charles Preparatory School and the Columbus School for Girls.

Of the 20 schools on the list that are ranked for students' access to technology devices, Bexley ranks 19th, only above Hamilton Local Schools. Dublin City Schools topped the list.

However, the purchase of the 642 new technology devices the school board approved in May is projected to bring Bexley's ranking to No. 16, the district's new technology plan states.

The devices will be paid for with $520,000 from the district's permanent-improvements levy and $167,000 from the general fund, according to the resolution the board approved May 13.

Improving students' access to technology "ultimately fills the gap for students that don't have access at home," Petit said. "It allows for spontaneity in the classroom."

In drafting the plan, the district's technology department audited the schools' technology infrastructure. The audit included consulting with ThinkCSC, a Worthington firm that provides technology services to the district, Petit said. The audit also included an independent evaluation by Presidio, a Dublin company, of the district's firewall configuration, network security and business continuity.

Petit said he and the district's four other technology-department staffers also consulted with a 14-member Bexley Technology Advisory Group, composed of five parents, six teachers, two students and the Bexley Public Library's information-technology librarian.

"This process has been incredibly collaborative," Petit said.

"We had involvement from staff, students, community members. Everybody got to have a voice in what, ultimately, we developed."

BTAG member Beth Parmer, a Maryland Elementary School teacher and the mother of two school-age children, said she joined the district in the 2018-19 school year.

"Coming from districts like Columbus and New Albany city schools, I was definitely surprised by the lack of devices that we have (in Bexley) and the lack of technology experience my children are given," she said. "This is our opportunity to do more and to do what's best for our kids."

BTAG member Meredith Stone, a Montrose Elementary School teacher, said the need to provide students with technology devices will help them stay competitive with their peers.

"I'm lucky enough to have five iPads in my classroom, but not all teachers are," she said.

"We really want to make sure that not only do kids have access to technology while they're within our walls, but when they leave our walls and that the world for them continues to get larger by their connection through technology."

In addition to the need for more student devices, other key findings of the technology plan call for the district to adopt a more-advanced firewall system to keep up with security threats, develop a structured replacement schedule for equipment, update the phone system and create a technology integration specialist position to coordinate systems.

The district's technology department will work to implement the technology plan over the next year and will bring any new purchases to the board for approval, Petit said.

The technology integration specialist position will not result in a new staff member but will be filled by existing staff, said John Barno, president of the board of education.

"We're not spending additional monies on salary and benefits," Barno said.

For more information, visit bexleyschools.org.

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