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Local News

Community connection

Channahon schools seek business community's help to keep students online

Channahon schools are looking for a few good businesses and agencies to help their students learn and grow. Channahon School District 17 is beginning a Community Wi-Fi Partnership designed to allow students to access the internet easily and free around the community, with no purchase required.

Grocery stores, dentist offices, gyms, anywhere students might go, even just with their parents on an errand, count.

The initiative is beginning this summer because, with the start of the upcoming school year, each fifth- through eighth-grade student in the district will be issued their own Chromebook. The plan is that the students will be able to use these computers not only at school, but also at home and everywhere in between. If, that is, there are internet hot spots around.

The district’s Director of 21st Century Learning, Jeremy McBrayer, is looking for businesses to sign onto the partnership.

All a business has to do, he said, is agree to allow students easy access to the business’s Wi-Fi free of charge whenever they want during the business’s normal hours of operation, with no strings attached.

A sticker on a door or window will let customers know the business is a participant. Businesses that partner also will be featured on the school district’s website map.

McBrayer is hoping to get a 100 percent sign-on.

“We really want everyone involved,” he said. “It is a goodwill gesture.”

The reason for the push, McBrayer said, is that these particular laptops have a Google Chrome web browser. The lower cost of the computers also means they aren’t as fast as many other laptops, which is why most of the students’ work must be done on the internet.

“They need to be connected to be really powerful,” McBrayer said. “These [Chromebooks] are half the price of a laptop. They’re also a benefit to the district as far as technical staff hours. Everything runs through the cloud. Even maintenance is done through the internet.”

There are some tasks that can be done on the Chromebooks without being on the web, such as writing a report, but much of what students do in the classroom today is online.

“It’s really such a good idea to democratize education in a safe and secure way,” McBrayer said.

Channahon District 17 Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Henkle said the community Wi-Fi project will benefit students and the community.

“The community is an extension of our schools,” Henkle said, “so we don’t want our kids limited to the walls of the classroom. ... The world is their classroom.”

Another benefit is the connection to the community the project will create, Henkle said.

“Our director of 21st century learning has been working with Google, and one of his main objectives as a Google Innovator is to come up with something that benefits the school district and the community and also helps elevate that partnership.”

Henkle said parents won’t have to worry about internet safety, either, when their children use their school-issued Chromebooks at the community sites.

“The beautiful thing is,” Henkle said, “no matter what internet connection they connect to anywhere in the community or anywhere in the world, it’s still going to filter back to our servers and our filters, so we do feel the students can remain safe online.”

The Three Rivers Library District was the first to sign on. Executive Director Laurie Offerman said the two libraries already have free Wi-Fi, and she is a big supporter of the new communitywide program.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Offerman said. “We’re really excited, and I hope we see some really positive experiences from it. ... One of the things we strive for is making sure everyone has access to technology.”

McBrayer said businesses and agencies who agree to the Community Wi-Fi Partnership may receive assistance from the school district’s technology department if they need help getting internet access or setting up a guest network.

“Most routers will allow you to set up two networks,” he said. “It’s really pretty simple to set up, and it will prioritize their business information.”

For information on the Community Wi-Fi Partnership, email jmcbrayer@csd17.org or call 815-521-3084.

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