By Maddy Vitale
Students, parents and faculty in the Ocean City School District have plenty to be excited about in the new school year, officials said.
Schools Superintendent Kathleen Taylor laid out in a letter to families a host of improvements in the schools from upgraded technology, to enhanced security measures, to continued programs for health and wellness.
“We know that as parents and guardians, there is nothing more important to you than your children. We also know that our students deserve a safe and nurturing learning environment every day – from their first days in kindergarten through high school graduation,” Taylor said in the letter that went out in the summer. “Ensuring the safety and well-being of our students enables them to grow and learn. We – families and the School District – agree that a strong, well-integrated, two-way communication system is key to this goal.”
During the summer the district bolstered their communications systems – merging each school and each classroom into one system and connecting each classroom with each home via one system, Taylor explained in the detailed letter.
One of the main upgrades is the installation of the AMX School View Unified Campus, designed to give the district centralized monitoring, emergency notifications, mobile accessibility, and instant two-way communication with every classroom from one location. The system is designed to enhance security and classroom instruction with an effective, well-integrated, communication system within all of the schools, the district and with the school community.
“This AMX system was the third and final phase of our five-year plan to enhance our communication system within each school, across the district, and to the community,” Taylor said in an email on Friday. “We were informed by Harman (who makes the AMX) that our School District is the first in New Jersey to have this AMX system.”
Specifically, the new system will provide the district with instant two-way audio and video messaging with first responders and improve communication and response time in emergencies.
“Equally important, the system enables administrators to communicate quickly with school-based teams during a school crisis, optimizing staff coordination and student safety,” Taylor noted in the letter.
In addition to its uses for emergencies and security matters, the AMX system also has instructional benefits.
One benefit is improving teacher-student voice amplification in all learning environments to help student comprehension and information retention. Another benefit is enhancing collaboration between teacher-student and student-student with the ability to share wired and wireless devices in any classroom on the projection system, Taylor said in the letter.
When it comes to instruction, the district has also introduced a new system called PowerSchool Unified Campus, which is supposed to be a very user-friendly software program.
Teachers spent two days during in-service training earlier this week on the new program.
It is designed to assist in unifying and connecting a child’s classroom with his or her home through easy-to-use online software. It provides online registration for both new and current students and will streamline and connect several student information systems. The overall goal by integrating the tools is to increase data security and make the experience better for teachers, students and families, the letter states.
“PowerSchool’s Learning Management System enables the district to expand our blended learning content and gives teachers and parents access to course work from any device, at any time,” Taylor said in the letter.
In addition to the AMX system and Unified Campus, the district also upgraded the Primary School exterior and interior door locks with an electronic locking system.
Taylor explained to families in the letter that each Primary School classroom door will be connected to the security system via the wireless network and can be monitored or managed at either the school or district level.
“This infrastructure improvement will enable all classroom doors within the school to be locked within 10 seconds at the push of a button,” Taylor said.
Both the Intermediate and High School classroom doors can be locked from the outside and inside, unlike the old locking door system at the Primary School, she noted.
Other security improvements include the hiring of security officers at the school, as well as employing two camera security personnel at the high school.
“Under the direction of the School District, our security personnel will also work collaboratively on security methods with the Ocean City Police Department,” Taylor said.
While the district is concentrated on academics and athletics, safety and security, health and wellness are a priority.
The district continues to offer a way for families to stay connected with each other, called Suite 360, an on-demand video and informational resource.
The Suite 360 platform offers students and parents guidance on understanding emotional development, learning about health-related topics, identifying and correcting risky behaviors, and keeping lines of communication open, Taylor wrote in her letter.
The theme of the 2018-2019 school year is “100%,” which Taylor explained on the first day of school means the district wants to ensure the students that teachers and staff are behind them.