by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow— The Wellington school board approved a new computer math software program and 500 Chromebook computers which will be implemented into the USD 353 curriculum starting this month and may be the first step toward replacing textbooks entirely.The new computer software called ALEKS – Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces — is a web based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn’t know through a course.The cost to USD 353 for the initial program is $8,250 to join ALEKS and issuing of 500 licenses. Also, 500 Chromebooks, will be used in four classrooms with rechargeable carts of $25 each. The Chromebook purchase will be $33,389. All funds will come out of the USD 353 Capital Outlay budget.With the school district facing the costs of replacing 400 textbooks at $80 to $100 a piece this next academic year, the board unanimously gave approval to go this alternative route.The system has been ordered today, and USD 353 assistant superintendent Brad Morris said the system will be in place as soon as possible.Wellington is ahead of the curve, Morris said. Only three other Kansas City public schools have implemented the system so far.Wellington board member Jackie Glasgow asked why there hasn’t been more schools using this particular kind of software. Morris said it was due to costs. Smaller school districts can’t afford to do so.This will be a five month trial program. If USD 353 board members decide this is a good learning tool then it will implement the program on a yearly basis.Wellington High School math teachers Bridget Vaughn and Katie Hollas made a 30 minute presentation to the board outlining the program’s benefits.ALEKS would systematic group students based on math abilities and charter their progress on an ongoing basis. For example in a class such as Algebra 1, a percentage of students may advance with a specific curriculum, faster than others. The design of the software gives each student to learn at his/her pace, and prevents a common problem in math classes for which some students are being held up from learning new material, while others are given material before they are ready.Morris said the beauty of the system is that when textbooks are purchased, the material is what it is for 10 to 15 years or however long the textbooks are in use. With this system, new material can always updated.“For example, they are currently looking at changing the math standards on the Kansas Assessment tests,: Hollas said.”This system would be able to adjust to meet those standards, as opposed to a textbook which presents the material as is.”—————In other board news:•Steve Adams of OPAA Food Service made a presentation concerning the benefits of the school going with a private management system for its school lunch program as opposed to doing it in house. The board is looking at alternatives, after long time food service director Sandy Clift announced her retirement last month.•The board approved the hiring of Queen Barnes, Rebecca Hile and Cindy Martin as paraprofessionals at the Wellington Middle School and High School. Also, Traci Hawks has been hired as a Wellington Middle School math teacher in 2016-17.•Steve and Brett Shogren requested the board refinance the 2007 bonds that could save the district an estimated $500,000. The board approved his recommendation unanimously.•Parent-Teacher Conferences have been rescheduled to Monday, March 7 and Tuesday, March 8 due to the possible conflict with the state basketball tournament games.•The board extended the contracts of all administrators for another year running through the 2017-18 school year after two 15-minute executive sessions.•The board also went into executive session for 15 minutes on teacher negotiations for 2016-17 but took no action.•The board will begin the interviewing process for a Wellington Superintendent in the near future. Wellington President Jackie Berryman said there has been around 80 applications including two or three that is in-house.