Reactions are mixed among parents about the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) decision to provide all students with email accounts in order to use Google Apps for Education.
Cindy Leadingham, parent of a second grade student, is completely against the idea of her young child having an email account.
“I am disappointed and alarmed at the level of internet and email access the Kershaw County School District is giving our children,” Leadingham said.
Even after speaking with her child’s principal and someone at the district office, she said she was still not convinced her child would be safe online. Leadingham has decided to not give permission for her child to participate in the program, which will cause her to be excluded from some activities that require the use of Google Apps.
According to the Google Apps for Education website, the apps include Gmail; Google Calendar; the Google office suite of products, which are compatible with programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint; online storage; and more.
The district announced the implementation of Google Apps for Education for grades 5K through 12 starting this school year.
Richland County School District 2 began using Google Apps for Education four years ago, and it proved to be a success, according to KCSD officials. After hearing about Richland’s success with the program, Kershaw County launched a pilot program using Google Apps for Education at Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) two years ago. After its success at LEHS, the district decided to offer it to all schools.
Google Apps for Education will require all students to have an email account in order to use the apps. Elementary students will only be allowed to send and receive emails from teachers, faculty and administrators at their school. They will not be allowed to send or receive emails from other students or persons outside of their school.
Middle school students will be able to send and receive emails from students in their own grade at their own school, as well as faculty, staff and administrators that work within their school.
For high school students, there will be no restrictions on sending and receiving emails.
Sabrina Tidwell, the parent of first and sixth graders, is in favor of the district’s decision. Tidwell says she sees Google Apps for Education having a positive impact on students in the district, and she feels that the safety features are solid.
“As far as safety, I think it’s very safe. I think students will learn a lot about internet security through this program,” said Tidwell.
Tidwell also supports Google Apps for Education because of the ease of access that it will give to both students and parents. Students and parents will be able to use the program for things such as looking up assignments and reading newsletters.
One of the most important advantages that Tidwell believes Google Apps will give to students is the preparation for the real world.
“We live in the age of technology, and if our children do not know how to use it, they will be left behind as adults. They need to know how to use the technology in order to compete and be productive adults,” Tidwell said.
Pine Tree Hill Elementary School Principal Melissa Royalty said that aside from the email accounts, and having things in place that will allow students’ usage of Google Apps and their email accounts to be restricted for their own safety, Google Apps will supply students with many advantages.
“I discovered that one great attribute is the portfolio feature. Students can easily store work from 5K through 12th grade,” Royalty said.
KCSD Instructional Technology Facilitator Derek Berry works within the district to make sure that the Google Apps program is well-equipped with safety features and everything needed for students to get the most out of the new technological learning experience.
Berry said saving documents and other items through Google Drive will ensure that no viruses will be present. Google Drive will also allow 30 gigabytes of storage, which will eliminate the need to purchase flash drives.
As for safety and security, the restrictions on the usage of email for middle school and elementary school students will be enforced by disabling certain features.
“If elementary students try to send emails to people they are not supposed to, an error message will appear,” Berry said.
A Google Apps for Education information session will be held at Camden Elementary School on Thursday at 6 p.m.