Metro schools to greet students, parents with upgraded… |


Metro schools to greet students, parents with upgraded… |

Tighter security, new facilities and updated computer systems will greet many of the 700,000 children returning to metro schools this week and next.

School districts across metro Atlanta are jumping into the 21st century with new computer systems that allow parents to track their children’s performance or expose students to tailored resources outside the classroom.

The promise of ever-improving technology is counterbalanced by growing wariness over safety.

The school systems in Decatur and Gwinnett and Clayton counties are outfitting buses with cameras to catch drivers who fail to stop when students are loading and unloading. And last year’s mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., prompted many districts to focus on security. Some added more police officers, and Clayton even got its own school police force. Others, such as Forsyth and Cobb counties, installed electronic locks at all elementary schools.

“Before, you could just walk in,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, the Forsyth schools spokeswoman. “Now, we have buzz-in doors.”

Forsyth is also deploying a computer system designed to help teachers diagnose their students and assign tailored homework using online resources.

The “its Learning” system was three years in the making and funded by a $4.7 million federal grant. It uses a “recommendation engine” that school technology chief Mike Evans likened to how Amazon and Netflix tailor content to users.

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