Pekin Community High School is considering its next leap into the digital world that could allow every student to have their own device to access the district’s Wi-Fi.
PCHS on Monday received a check for $10,000 from Pekin Community Bank to help students in need. That money will go toward technology upgrades. The district will also renovate the entire library and help with technology costs with its own funds, said District 303 Superintendent Danielle Owens.
“One of the things that we have planned for hopefully next summer is renovation of the library/media center, said Owens. “It’s showing its age. It also needs to be revamped in terms of how we want to use that space in a more modern term. If students are there working on devices, are there enough charging stations, is there enough Wi-Fi access ... those things? That’s going to give the ability for students to have access to technology they may not have access to at home.”
Many questions have yet to be answered about future technology at PCHS.
Currently the Chromebooks the district has stay in the media center for students to use there.
“We’re still walking ourselves down a road,” said Owens. “Is Pekin High School at a point where we are one to one in terms of every student having a device?
“We’re still looking into those things, but I would assume whether we go one to one there needs to be a zone in the library where students would have access to grab a device and/or, even if they have a device, have access to free Wi-Fi after hours because maybe they don’t have it at home. We have carts available now (with Chromebooks) that are typically used in the classroom. Teachers check them out. But we don’t have devices that are used just for student checkout.”
The price tag for the entire renovation of the library is unknown at this time, but the bank donation will go specifically to technology.
Owens said the district is hoping to pilot individual devices in the 2016/2017 school year with various teachers where students will have one to one devices. The PCHS technology committee will work through the next year gathering information to help the district make a decision.
The district in the 2015/16 school year had 2,030 students. If the district opts for all students to have a Chromebook, the Chromebooks currently on the mobile carts would be given to students. Owens said the price range for a new Chromebook is $300 to $400.
“That’s why we are taking so much time to make decisions — because of the large cost,” said Owens.
She said the district also wants to take steps to make the use secure so students could not go to sites they should not visit.
Owens said the district also wants to make sure teachers “are changing their instruction to effectively use the devices. It is an investment. I do believe that one of the reasons we would want to go to it is that we have students who are growing up in a digital age and they are growing up in a world where they need to be proficient in using those devices. However, if we don’t change how we teach in the classroom, just because a student has a device doesn’t mean we’re effectively using the technology. We need to decide if our staff is ready and our are students ready.”
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin