Technology Takes Center Stage at Kalispell’s Newest Elementary School

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines toured Rankin Elementary on March 8

By Justin Franz
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, left, and his wife Cindy take a quiz about Dr. Seuss during a tour of Rankin Elementary in Kalispell on March 8, 2019. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Education is changing and Rankin Elementary, Kalispell’s newest elementary school, is perhaps one of the best places to see that transition first hand. On March 8, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, visited Rankin to see some of the technology that was built into the school that serves students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Rankin opened in August 2018 and was the first new elementary school to be built in Kalispell in 30 years.

Principal Merisa Murray said that technology was a huge consideration when designing and building the school. All classrooms have smart boards that connect to a computer. There are at least four 3D printers in the school and each of the 415 students gets to make at least one item every year. Last year, some students made Christmas ornaments. Some classrooms also have speaker systems that amplify the teacher’s voice. Superintendent Mark Flatau said the system helps students clearly hear their instructor while also saving the teacher’s voice.

All of the technology at Rankin, and other schools in Kalispell, is funded with a local technology levy. Murray said by the time students leave elementary school they will have had firsthand experience with several different types of technology, including computers, iPads and more. Every grade has at least one technology class each week and some students are learning how to code. Kindergarteners also learn basic skills like how to use a mouse.

“There are more devices in kids’ hands and that’s going to help them learn,” she said.

Daines, a chemical engineer, said he was glad to see the students were already proficient with technology and that it’s important for them to embrace technology.

“This is preparing these kids for the 21st century,” he said. “We need to make sure that our students can compete in the global economy.”

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