Two of the three computer labs will be transformed into fab labs for the upcoming school year.
The Medford Education Foundation made a donation at Monday night’s Medford Board of Education meeting, allowing a redesign of the Medford Memorial Middle School’s computer labs to take place.
MEF President Pamela Scheller presented a $30,000 donation to the board to go toward the transformation of computer labs to fabrication labs, otherwise known as “fab labs,” that will be completed by the start of the upcoming school year.
These fab labs are going to support the implementation of Project Lead The Way, a part of the new middle school curriculum as an enrichment course.
Technology coordinator Mark Damon spoke about this transition, saying, “We’re using these learning environments for creating things and for engineering, rather than what they have traditionally been used for, which is simply desktop computing.”
So far, the district has redesigned five elementary school computer labs to be fab labs, starting at Kirby’s Mill, which concluded last year.
Since engineering programs were in place from kindergarten through sixth grade and there were programs available in the Lenape Regional High School District, Superintendent Joseph Del Rossi and Damon took initiative in closing the gap that existed in programs for students in seventh and eighth grade.
There will be a redesign of two of the three computer labs at Medford Memorial Middle School. These two rooms are connected by a wall that will be altered to allow it to open up and create a large engineering space for projects that require more room for students to test their designs.
In addition, the flooring will be replaced (from carpet to something more suited for equipment use), desktop computers will be replaced by high-end laptops able to support the programs used for the PLTW course, projectors will be replaced by interactive flat panels that can be wheeled to different locations in the rooms, and the tables will be replaced by more mobile ones — allowing students to interact and collaborate more easily.
The donation has allowed teachers Nicole Tomlinson and Solveig Varga to undergo PLTW core training, as well as covering the funds for supplies needed — such as licenses for software and equipment.
In the past, the MEF has supported supplying 30 Chromebooks in one classroom in one building in 2014–15 school year. The next year, they went from 30 to 433 devices, and Damon stated that jump was because of their support.
The MEF also donated $50,000 (plus $11,000 that rolled over from a grant), toward the cost of implemented fab labs in the elementary schools.
Currently, there are 40 students who have expressed interest in the PLTW program at Medford Memorial Middle School, and approximately 80 students qualify to participate in this enrichment course.
“Our hope is that the success of the program will drive us to offer more engineering courses in the future,” Damon said.
In other news:
● The state Department of Education reported Medford Township School District would lose $286,982 in state aid for fiscal year 2019. The district will be applying to have those funds restored.
● There will be an upgrade in security protocol, including the addition of a school resource officer, Nicole Fellona, at Haines Sixth Grade Center.
● Haines Sixth Grade Center will be restructuring the media center and will no longer be using desktop computers.
● Twenty harassment, intimidation/bullying reports were investigated throughout the district — eight reports fell under violation of HIB.
The next board meeting will be held on Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Board of Education Offices located at 137 Hartford Road.