Emily Penner's classroom touch screen TV

Sioux Center Christian School first-grade student Wesley Miller practices counting back numbers on the practice sheet his teacher, Emily Penner, displayed on the touch screen TV.

SIOUX CENTERAccess to COVID-19 relief funding this year has helped Sioux Center Christian School accelerate its technology improvements.

Those improvements including replacing 19 Smart Boards with touch screen TVs this summer as well as adding several display devices in various classrooms and workspaces.

“Smart Boards have been costly to repair and replace, and the technology has become outdated,” said head of school Josh Bowar. “Touch screen TVs provide the same quality in student experience while also providing better visibility and interaction. They also have a longer life span and don’t require updates and subscription fees to operate.”

The school had budgeted to replace two or three Smart Boards annually for the past three years so the grant helped accelerate the replacement process.

Grant funding also allowed the school to increase student devices available, including Chromebooks and iPads.

“SCCS has taken the intentional stance that we have the ability to be a 1:1 school, but do not assign each student a specific device,” Bowar said. “We believe when you assign each student a specific device as their own, you put undue pressure on teachers to use the device more than what may be age-appropriate. We want teachers to choose the best tool for learning for each of their topics. Sometimes that is technology, sometimes it’s not. The importance of hands-on, face-to-face, engaged learning cannot be overstated — especially in the elementary and middle school setting. Technology is a tool our teachers and students use, not the driver of learning.”

Bowar said being able to accelerate the school’s technology improvements allowed the school to respond to the needs of its families and students related to the pandemic without adding spending to its general budget and hold true the school’s five-year budgeting and technology replacement process. The school evaluates its technology needs on a yearly basis.

“We want our students to have the most updated equipment available so that they can understand how to use the equipment through the lens of a biblical perspective,” Bowar said. “We want them to learn discernment in using the tools, something we all know is so important in today’s world.”

Bowar also said reviewing technology needs is important because, “We want students to thrive in their learning, and I see it as part of my role to provide helpful tools and resources so that teachers can live out their calling effectively and so that students can understand more about God’s world and their place in it.”

The school also updated the section of its building affectionately called the West Wing with new paint, LED lights, new drinking fountains, wall tiles and ceiling tiles.

“These changes have resulted in a much brighter learning environment, something much more inviting to students,” Bowar said.

The school also replaced a large section of the roof, made some outdoor repairs, added landscaping and renovated a few student bathrooms.

“All updates were made with the intention of improving the student experience,” Bowar said. “We want students to love where they go to school, and the facility plays a big part in that. Changes were needed simply because of the age of the West Wing. We recently completed the funding on our $6.8 million building expansion, and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t just ignore other sections of the building.”

The oldest part of the Christian school that was updated was built in 1948. Other sections of the facility were added in the 1970s and 1990s.

“All parts of our campus are important for student learning, and we want to keep improving and updating them,” he said.