St. Mary's High School has entered a "new realm of learning" that is still relatively unknown in Iowa high schools.
St. Mary's officially launched its new wireless laptop computer lab yesterday, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Catholic Schools Foundation and local fundraising.
St. Mary's has been one of the regional leaders in providing state-of-the-art technology to its students, as the entire K-12 facility is networked and there is at least one computer in every classroom.
With the creation of the wireless laptop lab, students at St. Mary's will now have access to their school's computer network from any site within the school building.
St. Mary's High School Principal Rose Davis said the keyword for the new laptop lab is "mobile."
"Bringing computer access to the students is a much more visionary way than having a computer lab where students have to go," she said.
Davis also said it has been a goal of St. Mary's to increase the number of computers and their availability to students.
St. Mary's is the first school in the Diocese of Sioux City to implement a totally wireless computer lab, and is considered to be one of the first in schools in northwest Iowa to do so.
Eleven new Gateway laptop computers are now in students' hands, and St. Mary's journalism students have used them to assemble this week's edition of the school newspaper, The Prowl.
Sara Carlson, journalism instructor at St. Mary's, said the new lab is "incredible."
"Instead of taking my class down the hall and wasting valuable instruction time, we can begin our work immediately in our classroom," she said. "Our students can get three times as much done in one class period using the portable lab."
All students at St. Mary's will benefit from having wireless access, Carlson said. She has used them in some of her English classes as well, opening the doors for additional materials from poetry to art.
"The possibilities not just in my classroom, but in the high school and any other class, are endless," she said. Carlson herself was enrolled at St. Mary's in the 1980s when the school saw the purchase of its first three computers.
Sister Joan Stoffel, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Sioux City, said St. Mary's will benefit from the wireless lab.
"Use of technology by students and teachers opens up a whole world," she said.
Also, the mobile computer lab will help cut down some of the overcrowding in the school's main computer lab, which sees heavy use from all K-12 students, says Pam Rust, technology coordinator at St. Mary's.
"With our main computer labs being utilized to capacity every class period, teachers were finding it impossible to schedule lab time for an entire class," she said. "Our new wireless laptop lab gives us the ability to bring the lab to the teacher."
When not in use, the computers are stored in a cart, where they can be charged up and can be brought to other parts of the St. Mary's school building.
Stoffel applauded the efforts of the Storm Lake community and St. Mary's for their strong support of education.
"The St. Mary's family has always been most supportive of our effort to provide a well-rounded Catholic education for the children of this area," Stoffel said. "The Catholic Schools Foundation is honored to contribute to this initiative that places St. Mary's students at the forefront of the technology revolution."
In light of increased funding pressure for both private and public schools across the state of Iowa, the grant from the Catholic Schools Foundation comes at an opportune time, Davis said.
"The support gives St. Mary's the ability to fund a project that otherwise would have been impossible to do," Davis said. "Our Catholic schools have proven to be very efficient in managing our resources. This new wireless laptop lab is great testimony to the dedication we all have to Catholic education."
St. Mary's High School is now in its 90th year of service in Storm Lake. Approximately 300 students are enrolled.