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NCSS earns Project of the Year award for student food service, internet project
Used geographical data to determine needs of specific students
Project of the Year

Newton County School System (NCSS) has won a Project of the Year award based on its use of geoanalytic data to determine both food service and internet service needs of students.

Forecast5 Analytics named the school system its award winner for 2020, said Scott Smith, CEO and president of the company.

“The work that Dr. Allison Jordan did relating to broadband accessibility in your district was exemplary — and we believe it deserves national recognition,” Smith wrote in a letter to Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. 

Jordan, who is NCSS director of Testing, Research, and Evaluation, said the work on the project began in March after school closures because of safety concerns about COVID-19. 

“We used the information in multiple ways,” Jordan said. 

“Initially, maps were set up to identify food service sites. Prior to March 2020, we had static maps, but the migration to this platform allowed us to view more detailed information, with real-time data. 

“We were able to identify specific areas in the community where students needed food. Without the maps, we might have possibly missed groups of students in need of food. 

“We worked with community partners to identify additional sites, as well as bus distribution food routes,” she said.

Following the initial use of the maps for food service distribution, Jordan said the district expanded the types of variables plotted on the maps.  

“All student home addresses were geocoded and placed on a map,” she explained. “Broadband service, provided by the FCC, was added as an additional map layer. The information was analyzed, based on unserved and underserved locations, to determine unique households with either no or limited internet connectivity. Households in either category, by FCC definition, would need service. 

“This information was joined to parent survey data — learning model, internet service, device — housed within our student information system. Reports were generated to determine the number of households in need of internet service.”

According to Jordan, these additional variables afforded NCSS administrators the opportunity to examine broadband connectivity within the district and identify students in need of hotspot devices, computers or both.

“This information was matched to learning model selections housed in the SIS (Infinite Campus system), which provided more insight into students who required additional technical resources for instruction,” she said.

Smith said, “As a company that thrives on innovation and growth, Forecast5 is energized by the ways in which our clients take our tools, apply their creativity and domain expertise, and generate value for their communities.” 

Fuhrey said, “Dr. Jordan’s innovative work in this area has enabled our school system to better meet the needs of our students and their families.”

“It is quite an honor for the Newton County School System to have been recognized by Forecast Analytics as their 2020 Project of the Year due to Dr. Jordan’s efforts: I am so proud of her work and dedication to our students, families, and community.”