DARBY - Kurt Kohn recently had some parents come to him concerned that if they signed the permission slip for Darby Elementary School's new computer lab, they might end up paying if something expensive wound up broken.
Purchased largely through a $30,000 Valentine Foundation Grant, that's just how nice the school's new equipment is.
But Kohn, Darby's elementary counselor and computer lab specialist, wants parents to rest easy. Because the lab is such an upgrade over the old tangle of out-of-date machines, students have been especially careful with the equipment, Kohn said.
"We've used this stuff for over a month without one instance of abuse or damage or vandalism," Kohn said. "The kids have been so respectful of the equipment, it's just been outstanding."
The lab and other technological equipment that school officials say has bolstered the educational experience at Darby Elementary were on display for the community during an open house Tuesday.
Loyd Rennaker, principal at Darby Elementary, said the school's upgraded technology owes its existence to the community nature of the schools.
He and Kohn pointed out the evidence: the teachers who wrote the grants to bring iPads and interactive Smart Boards to classrooms; the Darby Excellence Fund purchased a bunch of Flip Video cameras; the Darby Civic Club made the headphones possible; local artist Sandy Boyd painted the Tiger logo on the lab wall; and the custodian, bus drivers and night staff took the time to build up the new computer tables.
Just looking around the computer lab itself, Rennaker said he could see a number of things that were made possible just because someone locally had stepped up to help the school make the purchase.
Rennaker acknowledged this approach comes with the territory in a cash-strapped, shrinking school district.
"We have to look anywhere we can get the help," he said.
The fifth-graders from Rich May's classroom were in the lab Tuesday afternoon working on a geography project when a group of Jamie Vogt's eighth-grade English students dropped in hoping to use their free period to finish a poetry project.
Rennaker said that would have been an issue about a month ago, when the computer lab only had a dozen or so 11-year-old computers that worked.
With eight machines sitting idle in mocking silence, the old lab was a place where students got to work on their sharing skills, not to mention their patience, Kohn said.
"I had a room full of machines, some of which worked and some of which didn't," he said. "So we always had kids doubled up ... and the machines were sitting on cafeteria tables with wires hanging everywhere, which was a big safety hazard."
At the open house, sixth-grader Rylee Smith, the student chosen to cut the ceremonial ribbon officially opening the lab, said he looked forward to getting into the school lab, whenever he could.
These computers, Smith said, are "way better" than the older one he uses at home.
Jaydon and Jasmyn Miskovich, first grade and kindergarten respectively, showed their parents some of the things they've been learning on the computers.
"We were just doing some number things," Jasmyn said about her session earlier in the day.
If the students, and by extension their parents, were excited, the teachers are right there with them, according Rich May, who had fifth-grader Kellyonna Frost demonstrating the Smart Board in his classroom.
May showed the morning school announcement students have been broadcasting via the Smart Boards and a Flip Video camera.
"It's nice because it creates a sense of community," May said, as board came alive with Wednesday morning's message from sixth-graders Patricia Levy, Blake Keller, Brianna Hurst-Sanders, Grace Davenport and Lindsey Lewis.
The staff's enthusiasm was also evident in the library, where students, parents and teachers hovered over some of the school's 11 new iPads.
While all the teachers said the tool doesn't eliminate the need for teachers to engage their students, all agreed that the iPads were one of the most versatile teaching tools at their disposal.
"The motivation factor is huge," said Jessie Dufresne, the school's special education teacher.
And when a student needs intervention in an area they seem to struggle with, a teacher can more quickly put them onto a lesson to work that particular area, Dufresne said.
Math specialist Chris Toynbee agreed, adding that the little touch-screen notebook computers can do the work of an entire cart of educational tools.
"Need flash cards for math - there's an app for that," Toynbee said.
Rennaker said he hopes the school will eventually work up to having about four iPads per classroom.
Special education teacher Tracie McCrossin said the new gadgets will earn their keep.
"You've got one tool now with almost infinite possibilities," she said.
Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.