By KAYLA J. MARSH
HAZLET — As students enjoy their summer hiatus, school officials are hard at work preparing for the upcoming academic year.
Aside from students in each of the Hazlet Township Public School District’s eight schools having more access to technological devices to support and enhance their learning environment, the 450 students of Hazlet Middle School will begin the 2016-17 school year with a “click” as they each receive their own district-issued Chromebook.
The 1:1 Chromebook Initiative that was approved by the district Board of Education was first initiated at Raritan High School this year as part of the 2015-16 district budget.
Students and staff each received their own devices that not only brought a new dynamic to classroom education, but helped students achieve their full potential.
“It was very successful and really helped to transform the learning process,” Superintendent of Schools Bernard F. Bragen Jr. said.
“Walking around the high school, we saw this taking off, saw students actively using their devices [and] knew the program would be successful in the lower grades as well.”
Bragen said teachers were always using the eight carts of Chromebooks available in the middle school last year.
“We have numerous machines available at every grade level and teachers use them regularly, so we knew this would be well received,” he said.
From taking final exams to scheduling innovative lessons plans and long-term projects, Bragen said the possibilities are infinite as to what staff and students can do to incorporate Chromebook technology into everyday learning.
“It provides a different level of learning, collaboration, creativity, conductivity and skills … and we’re excited to … embrace … and help students navigate and become 21st-century learners,” Bragen said.
During the summer, the district will hold in-service dates for staff training with the Chromebook devices, and students will soon be able to sign out their own Chromebook device before school begins again in September.
“Putting more devices in the hands of our staff and students continues to allow us to change the educational environment in our schools,” said William Kolibas, president of the Board of Education, in a statement.
Aside from the introduction of the 1:1 Chromebook Initiative, the district has implemented a number of changes and programs to help increase interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) fields and to help prepare students with college and career-readiness skills such as problem solving and working with a team.
During the summer of 2015, the Raritan High School woodshop was transformed into a new state-of-the-art Fabrication Laboratory or “Fab Lab,” designed to equip students with an array of tools — such as a welding booth, a compact milling machine, plasma and vinyl cutters and a CNC carving machine — in a small-scale workshop setting offering a project-based learning method to help students create almost anything.
Bragen said he has also presented each of the district’s elementary schools with an HP Sprout and Dremmel 3-D printer, the costs of which totaled nearly $10,000 and whose funding is coming from the revenue the district generates from shared services with other districts.
“With the support of the Board of Education, the Hazlet Township Public Schools intends to utilize these state-of-the-art devices as yet another stepping-stone in meeting the mission of our district and preparing our students for the world beyond the Hazlet Township Public Schools,” Bragen said in a statement. “… The potential for these devices to advance the learning in our school is limitless.”