The City of Sweetwater has remained committed to funding a city school system, providing $675,700 to the Sweetwater City School system this fiscal year.

Off the bat, the city provides a $510,000 appropriation each year to the school system that is made up of Sweetwater Primary, Sweetwater Elementary, Brown Intermediate and Sweetwater Junior High.

Sweetwater High School is in the Monroe County School System, but the city does provide a $5,000 annual grant to the high school.

The city also provides funding for a school resource officer and school security officers. The city is also paying $40,000 annually on the bonds that built the new junior high gym and classroom edition.

But another $25,000 the city provides each year in technology funding is making a big difference in the classroom.

Recently, City Commissioners Lamar Hughes, Ed Lee, Billy “Buster” West and City Recorder Jessica Morgan got a first-hand look at how those funds helped students by allowing the school system to purchase Chromebooks for each student from the third through eighth grade.

A Chromebook is a laptop or tablet running the Linux-based Chrome OS as its operating system. The devices are primarily used to perform a variety of tasks using the Google Chrome browser, with most applications and data residing in the cloud rather than on the machine itself.

The city officials visited Tracie Kile’s third-grade classroom at Sweetwater Elementary School (SES) to see the students put the Chromebooks to use. Sweetwater City Schools Director Rodney Boruff was there to also update commissioners on the new technology.

“It’s really what they are used to seeing,” Kile said of the Chromebooks.

Indeed the 8 and 9-year-old students seem extremely comfortable using the new technology.

Kile said any subject matter can be taught on the Chromebooks and tests can be taken on them as well. Kile said she still uses pencil and paper about half the time, however, to make sure all learning styles are accommodated.

“You have to have a balance,” Kile said.

There are big advantages to using the Chromebooks for students and teachers alike. Kile and other teachers do not have to carry around a bunch of student papers and can quickly grade and make comments on the students’ work.

“It’s a tool, not a toy,” Boruff said of using Chromebook technology. “When we first started, there were not many school systems doing it.”

Students’ work is stored the whole time they are in the Sweetwater City School System and they can take all that work with them when they leave the eighth grade.

Boruff said the students have done a good job taking care of the Chromebooks. Kile, who instructs other SES teachers on how to use the technology, holds a technology night for parents so they can understand how technology is used in the classroom. For protection of the equipment and other safety issues, students do not take the Chromebooks home but can access the needed websites on their own devices at home.

The commissioners were impressed with what they saw in the demonstration and amazed at how easily the students have adapted to a changing world of education.

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