More technology is on its way to North Providence schools

More technology is on its way to North Providence schools

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The district plans to invest approximately $2,500 in each North Providence classroom in grades 2 through 5, outfitting the rooms with technology, thanks to money made available through Kids Klub facility-use fees, Supt. Melinda Smith said last week.

Each of these classrooms will receive an interactive projector with stylus, a document camera, speakers and a whiteboard. Smith said equipment will be ordered this week, and installation will hopefully begin over winter vacation, "to create technology-enabled classrooms."

Installation by town workers will be free, Smith noted.

The entire project will be funded using: $60,000 from the Feinstein Foundation, which granted each elementary school in town $10,000 earlier this year; money collected through individual school fundraisers and pooled together; as well as approximately $30,000 from the account set up years ago specifically to collect Kids Klub money.

Kids Klub, a nonprofit organization run by Mary Ann Shallcross Smith as a part of her Dr. Day Care business, was founded in 1987 and has been in North Providence for five years.

Until the School Committee meeting last month, Kids Klub funds could only be used for elementary school capital projects.

That restriction was lifted by School Committee members, who voted the money could also be used to fund technology upgrades throughout the elementary schools, some of which house the after-school program that collects tuition from North Providence parents.

Since Kids Klub came to town five years ago, the district has been able to renovate the cafeteria/auditorium areas of Stephen Olney Elementary School, Greystone Elementary School and Centredale Elementary School.

There is currently approximately $50,000 in the account, Finance Director John McNamee told School Committee members on Oct. 22, $14,500 of which is committed for the Centredale project.

Kids Klub, which uses space at Whelan Elementary School, McGuire Elementary School, Greystone and soon Ricci Middle School, sends annual payments, McNamee said, which have been increasing with the program's enrollment numbers.

North Providence schools collected approximately $10,000 in 2011, he said, compared to $14,500 in 2012. This year, the payment was close to $20,000.

"We're very fortunate in North Providence," said Amy Vogel, vice president of Kids Klub operations. "It's a great collaboration.

The School Department currently must make a request with the town's finance director to use any Kids Klub funds, after an ordinance was passed in 2010 at the behest of the School Committee putting the account under town control and restricting it to be used on elementary school capital.

School Committee member Stephen Palmieri said the decision was made to have the town watch the money after "people were borrowing from Peter to pay Paul" in the School Department prior to McNamee's start as finance director.

"It's just kind of protected over there," Palmeiri said.

Though the Kids Klub money is restricted to elementary schools, Smith said the district will continue to focus on technology at all grade levels, including finding funding for upgrades at the middle schools and North Providence High School.

"All of the students should be afforded the same thing," she said, adding that teachers are enthusiastic to incorporate new tools into their lessons. "The parents and kids are anxious to have it."