Anyone who has had the pleasure of setting up a new computer or smart TV in their home can appreciate what a hassle it can be to unbox, install, connect to Wi-Fi, and run endless software updates on these devices. Multiply that experience by 130 and you have some sense of the task completed by Dave Feagens, a Low Voltage Technician with Grain Valley Schools and his crew in late June and early July.
The district purchased new Promethean touchscreen boards to be installed over the summer. With the shutdowns this spring and delayed start of summer school, the installation of the boards became more complicated than expected. Nick Gooch, Assistant Superintendent of Support Services, explained the logistics of installing the boards was one of two big issues.
“We had a company quote us to unbox and remove the old Promethean boards and install new boards. The total cost was $40,000 to complete this task. And none of it would have been done prior to summer school. Dave grabbed a couple summer staff and was able to start the process early. This allowed the summer school staff to get the boards early, and him doing this for us saved the district the $40,000,” Gooch said.
In his report to the Grain Valley School Board during their July 16th meeting, Gooch took a moment to give a shout out to Feagens.
“Feagens and his crew did a 1/3 of the work in a matter of five days. I couldn’t believe he was able to get that work done that quickly. I was thoroughly impressed. They worked really hard, really quickly to get our teachers the equipment they needed,” Gooch said.
As Low Voltage Technician, Feagens installs and administers all the security cameras in the district, which stands at around 297 cameras by his count. Feagens is also responsible for handling network drops and technology such as the Promethean boards. As Feagens described it, the labor side of IT.
Feagens, who has been with the district for 9 years, emphasized his co-workers made the task of installing the new touchscreens possible.
“This year has been a little messed up. We had the shutdown, and then we came back and start into our regular pace, and then the IT department asked us to come have a meeting and that is when this started.”
Feagens and his crew got to work, unboxing, building the stands for each screen, setting up and installing firmware, and connecting each to Wi-Fi.
The 75-inch touchscreens weigh in at 140 pounds a piece, and bring a new level of flexibility in the classroom. The boards are mounted on mobile carts, so teachers can easily change the arrangement of their classroom as needed. Teachers can sync their laptops to the boards to share lessons or utilize one of the self-supporting programs. The screens are also significantly larger than the prior version, so students can spread out further from the screen, which is particularly important in the age of COVID-19.
COVID-19 has not changed the work of the custodial and maintenance staff, but it does add an extra level of awareness, Feagens explained.
“As maintenance staff, our main focus will be to be even more aware of our self as well as our environment in terms of what we touch in the space we work in.”
As the public continues to debate how to safely return students and teachers to the classroom in the fall, a quiet crew of professionals plans stepped-up efforts to ensure they can do so.
“Especially during this time, we often lose sight of the people who actually come in and do that work. Most of the time people don’t see the custodians and operations staff and how important the work they do is to keep students and staff safe, and resolve issues quickly so the class doesn’t have to be interrupted,” Feagens said.