Hundreds of students in Community Unit District 300 welcomed the new school year Tuesday with a special gift -- a new Chromebook of their own.
The Algonquin-based district rolled out 12,350 Chromebooks for students entering first through eighth grades.
"It's exciting" for students and teachers, Superintendent Fred Heid said. "Kids are just smiling from ear to ear. It's that kind of enthusiasm and energy that is going to translate to better student engagement overall. Kids are going to get to be innovators and self paced. They are going to become very self directed and exploratory ... and pave their own pathways. There is a nervous energy out there because this is new."
One-to-one devices will be deployed to a grade of high school in each ensuing year so all students will be equipped with a personal computing device by 2020.
Roughly 20,045 students returned to classrooms Tuesday districtwide. The district includes a preschool, 17 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, and an alternative school.
Six new principals took the helm at their respective schools: Lindsay Sharp at Golfview Elementary, previously the district's director of professional development and strategic planning; Kelly Burke at deLacey Family Education Center, previously assistant principal there; Karen Cumpata at Dundee Highlands Elementary; Nancy Regeul at Hampshire Elementary; James Szymczak at Hampshire Middle School, previously assistant principal at Hampshire High School; and Martina Smith at Meadowdale Elementary, the only external hire.
Also new this year, the district is implementing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and art curriculum inside elementary classrooms.
Heid said considering the magnitude of the district's operations, the first day kicked off smoothly.
"When you think about the scope of what an organization our size has to plan for and prepare for the first day, it's pretty impressive what we are able to accomplish," he said. "There will always be hiccups. The first few weeks are always interesting. This year, our schools did an exceptional job of preparing and having events for parents. Elementary schools in particular really go out of the way to do that, especially for new parents. There is an energy today that is palpable. If day one goes well, it sets the tone for the entire school year."