MATTOON — The Mattoon school district is set to receive a $3,000 grant to help build local broadband capacity.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Office of Broadband announced on Thursday that the district is among the first recipients of the Illinois Connected Communities grant program that was created to help underserved areas.
Student Services/Curriculum Director Christy Hild said the district is increasing technology and improving infrastructure in its schools so students and teachers can benefit from an education enhanced by cutting-edge technology.
"These advancements are exciting for us, but we have realized that even if we are able to fully equip our school buildings, we are not fully equipping our students and their families," Hild said. "This has become even more apparent during the statewide school closures this spring."
In the spring, the district conducted a survey this spring to determine how many of its households were able to reliably access Internet content for more than one device at a time. Hild said only 19.6% of respondents were affirmative. She said this resulted in some students excelling with the help of high-quality internet access, while others struggled to stay in communication with their teachers at the most basic level.
"This reality is in direct opposition to our core beliefs surrounding equity, opportunity, and growth, causing us to begin searching for comprehensive solutions to conquer the digital divide in Mattoon," Hild said of the survey's findings.
Hild said the true value of the $3,000 grant is less its fiscal impact and more the statewide network to help develop a strategic plan for community-wide broadband services. She said their first step will be to create an inclusive, diverse group of community members who will help guide the planning process.
"We are thankful for our community partners' support on this project," Hild said. "The school district’s circle of influence regarding digital inclusion can reach a portion of our community - students and their families. However, with involvement by the Mattoon Public Library, Mattoon in Motion, Coles Together, the Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Mattoon, we feel our efforts toward community advocacy and sustainable change are very strong."
Photos: Crowds turn out for Mattoon 2020 Independence Day Parade
Contact Stroud at (217) 238-6861.
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