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Middle school, some high school classes will watch Obama address

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Elementary schools cite schedule conflicts as reason for not logging on to webcast

By Shannon Brock

UPDATED 10:30 A.M. FRIDAY — Students at Anderson County Middle School and some classes at Anderson County High School will watch President Barack Obama's webcast Tuesday, but the county's other schools will not be logging on.

Obama will address all students in grades K-12 via a webcast at noon Tuesday. According to the U.S. Department of Education's website, Obama will talk to the children about "persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning."

The decision of whether to watch the live broadcast was left up to each school, said Superintendent Kim Shaw.

Shaw said the broadcast was first brought to his attention by a concerned community member on Wednesday. After learning more about the event, Shaw said he sent an e-mail to the schools and asked them to let him know if they were interested in participating.

"We're not promoting it or downplaying it either way," Shaw said.

As of Friday morning, the middle school and a limited number of classes at the high school had signed on to watch the webcast.

Shaw said the district's other schools said their schedules were too busy to fit in the broadcast, especially on short notice.

The time of the address is also inconvenient, Shaw said.

"It's right in the middle of lunch," he said.

Parents of middle school students will be notified about the event through a letter, Shaw said. Parents of high school students will be contacted through One Call Now and will also receive a letter, Shaw said.

Parents can choose to opt their children out of watching the webcast, he said.

"An alternative activity will be provided," he said.

Overall, Shaw said he has received fewer than 10 phone calls and e-mails about the event.

Six viewing stations will be set up throughout the middle school, Shaw said.

Middle school Principal Steve Karsner said the webcast will be shown to all students unless their parents opt out.

"I think we should show it," Karsner said. "He's the president of the United States, and he's going to talk about the importance of education. We preach that everyday."

Several community members have expressed concerns that Obama might attempt to push his agenda with the students.

Karsner said according to the information he has seen, the address is supposed to be pretty straight forward.

"We won't expose our students to any propaganda," he said. "If (the address) turns out that way, we can always turn it off."

Watching the webcast does require quite a bit of bandwidth, but the schools' Chief Information Officer Bret Foster said he doesn't expect any difficulties on the schools' end.

All of the state's school districts feed into the state network, and depending on how many schools statewide watch the broadcast, "it could bottleneck there," Foster said.

The broadcast will be shown at www.whitehouse.gov/live, and Foster said he wonders how that site will handle all of the traffic.

According to the frequently asked questions about the event on the Department of Education website, "The White House Web site is equipped with the appropriate amount of bandwidth to accommodate a large viewership."

The same site says the address will be available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/mediaresources/ as well as on www.ed.gov after its original broadcast.