SUGAR HILL -- Jeannie Lanio wore a high-tech-looking device around her neck like a futuristic piece of jewelry as she taught biology class at Lanier High School on Thursday.
The device is a microphone that is part of an audio enhancement system, complete with speakers installed in the classroom ceiling, that allows Lanio's students to hear her clearly, even while sitting in the very back of the room.
This system was one of the technologies school officials observed in use Thursday during a tour of Lanier High School, one of seven new schools, and the only high school, that opened to Gwinnett County Public Schools students this year. Lanier anchors the new cluster in the county and was previously Lanier Middle School, which was expanded by more than 250,000 square feet to accommodate growth in the school system.
The audio enhancement system in use at Lanier was piloted in 12 schools last year. The system is used in two of the seven new schools and will be extending to the others in the next couple months.
The system is designed to raise a teacher's voice level five to 10 decibels above standard classroom sounds that can distract students such as the whir of a pencil sharpener and the rustle of papers. The distributed sound allows every student to hear as well as those sitting in the front row no matter where the teacher is in the classroom. According to Sloan Roach, executive director of communication and media relations for GCPS, research studies have shown that audio reinforcement improves student achievement, reduces student redirection and discipline problems, and reduces teacher fatigue and absenteeism.
"The new use of the auditory enhancement (system) is I think a particularly good tool," said Robert McClure, vice chairman of the Board of Education. "Having seen it, I think it's a wonderful improvement to the ability of a teacher to communicate in the classroom. It's great."
School board members were also ushered into the center for design and technology, housed in the portion of the school that was previously Lanier Middle and an incredible space that includes a main classroom filled with computer work stations, a separate robotics workshop area and a conference room. The space is used to facilitate an integrated learning environment in which students receive instruction in a fusion of technology and core subjects.
After spending time at Lanier High School, school officials traveled to Burnette Elementary, which opened to more than 600 students this year.
Thursday was the first time school officials had taken tours of new facilities while school was in session. The tours are typically taken before students return from summer vacation.
"It's always a boost to see the kids in operation and just enthusiasm is tremendous to see," said board member Carole Boyce. "Seeing the facility in light of the kids is just so special."