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A new wave of e-textbooks is giving students more than just words and a few hotlinks on a digital page. Publishers over the last few years have been adding video, interactive maps and gamified quizzes designed to engage students more deeply in their learning.

Safety, flexibility and energy efficiency are the forces driving new school construction as administrations create buildings to rival college facilities to prepare students for the technology-driven world they will find in college and the workforce.

With new, smarter building technology to control energy use, school leaders can reduce their carbon footprint and use the money saved to fund projects that may have suffered from budget cuts. U.S. schools spend more on energy than they do “on computers and textbooks combined,” according to a past report by Energy Star.

“As much as 30 percent of a district’s total energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily,” the report states.

A tornado safe room under construction in Moore, Oklahoma.

Tornadoes sweeping through parts of the nation and destroying schools are leading district leaders to create “safe rooms” for increased protection.

In May 2013, Moore, Okla., was hit by a tornado that destroyed two elementary schools and killed seven students. Moore Public Schools is rebuilding the schools with four safe rooms designed to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria to provide protection during tornadoes.

Teriyaki coho salmon skewers in Alaska. Red chile beef enchiladas in New Mexico. And Vietnamese pho soup in California. Inspired by new nutrition rules, districts are now offering these and other meals in hopes of getting students to eat healthier by appealing to their taste buds.

Jessica Shelly, food services director of Cincinnati Public Schools, sits with an elementary student during lunch. Their nutritious lunch includes milk, carrots, apple sauce and yogurt.

A Chicago suburban district, realizing it would lose more money than it rakes in, opted out of the National School Lunch Program last month in response to strict, new health regulations. But many districts can’t afford to give up federal subsidies, forcing administrators to find ways to encourage students to eat healthier foods required by federal rules.

Diesel-fueled buses are the most common for transporting students in cities, suburbs and rural areas due to good gas mileage and easy fueling.

Alternative fuel, surveillance cameras, maintenance and driver salaries all play a role in how a district manages its transportation—unless, of course, the district decides to outsource and let an outside company make all those decisions.

The new breed of robots rolling, dancing and flying into classrooms is giving educators at all grade levels an engaging new tool to fire students’ enthusiasm for math, computer programming and other STEM-related subjects.

A step for districts going paperless is to stop accepting cash or paper checks from parents. Many school systems have had vendors set up secure online portals where parents can pay for AP courses, lunches and field trips, among other items.

Pre-K students in Tulsa Public Schools work at a sensory table.

As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio neared his 100th day in office, he could already boast of an achievement that may not only shape his legacy, but also take part in transforming the nation’s largest school system: universal prekindergarten.

De Blasio, who entered office promising to make full-day pre-K available for all 4-year-olds in the city, pressured the state legislature to allocate funding for programs statewide.

After much tussling, New York lawmakers approved $300 million for the city, some $40 million shy of what de Blasio estimated pre-K programs would cost.

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