NAUGATUCK — The $81 million renovation to Naugatuck High School, scheduled to break ground in March, will not just redo the school’s outer shell and fix the cracks in the walls.
Administrators also want the project to convert the school into a technological powerhouse.
“We anticipate that students will be much more engaged and much more proactive because they have better access to richer resources,” Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson said.
The school board recently approved new specifications for the project that will provide a wireless network to support multiple devices per person, a guest network, and interactive LCD projectors.
Classrooms will also have strips of plugs, or “charging stations,” for laptops, tablets or smartphones that students bring in for educational purposes, Principal Janice Saam said.
Saam said she worked with Tindall-Gibson and school information technology staff to craft the new specifications the board approved.
“I want to be able to have an infrastructure that can support a very robust network, because I think I’d be hard pressed to anticipate what the latest device would be five, 10 years from now,” Saam said. “Technology changes so quickly.”
The fiberoptic cables and distribution boxes should power a network not only for the devices administrators have in mind, but for future technology they have not yet envisioned, Saam said.
“If we can do that, we can support whatever the latest and greatest device that comes down the pike,” Saam said. “I’m trying to see where we could have the most flexibility with whatever we bring in to the renovation.”
Administrators expect classrooms to be equipped with projectors that render high-definition interactive images the students and teachers can manipulate directly with their hands. The information projected is stored in a “cloud” network, rather than on a hard drive.
The school could buy screens as big as 70 inches, or special paint to create “teaching walls,” administrators said. The front of the school store has become such a wall, which students can write on or erase with their hands, Saam said.
Students will be able to use the network to work on assignments anywhere — while they are waiting at the doctor’s office, for example, Tindall-Gibson said.
Teachers may also set up video chats with people related to their lessons, such as the author of a story students are reading, Tindall-Gibson said.
“We want every classroom to be able to be used as a global communications center,” he said.
The budget will not be finalized until the spring, but Tindall-Gibson said he does not expect the new wiring to exceed the project’s allocation. Technology that is not “built in” — such as computer stations for teachers, high-definition screens, projectors and laptops — will cost $1.3 million, he said.
Some classes, such as video production or graphic design, will have more devices, whereas classes such as English or social studies might have fewer, Tindall-Gibson said.
The new technology will probably be installed on an ongoing basis, as various phases of the building are renovated, he said.
In recent years, borough schools have budgeted between $150,000 and $350,000 annually for new technology. Tindall-Gibson said he would like the district to plan so all the new equipment in the high school is not replaced at the same time when it becomes obsolete.
“We should implement a fixed replacement schedule for technological equipment going forward, and then implement that in the budget,” he said.