Aurora Nonprofit Group Helps District 204 with Data Needs

By Marie Wilson, Daily Herald

With grading systems, student information systems, learning applications and library checkout systems all running simultaneously, large school districts like Indian Prairie Unit District 204 are constantly dealing with expanding data needs. The district has found a new way to address its need for more data center space by partnering with OnLight Aurora, a nonprofit organization that leases bandwidth on the city of Aurora's fiber Internet network. For five years, District 204 will rent a 10 GB connection to the network, allowing two physically remote data centers to function as one.

"By connecting our current data center with space that's allocated at Metea Valley High School, we're able to meet our growing needs," said Stan Gorbatkin, assistant superintendent for technology services. "This is a prerequisite to additional work to meet the district's needs in terms of technology."

A fiber connection will be installed between Metea at 1801 N. Eola Road and the Crouse Education Center at 780 Shoreline Drive, both in Aurora. Much of the cabling already exists on Aurora's 50-mile fiber network, but new lines will need to be installed near the high school and from Aurora fire station 8 at McCoy Drive and Gregory Street to the education center, Gorbatkin said.

OnLight is using a portion of a $1 million "Gigabit Challenge" grant it received from the state last month to pay the $109,000 cost of building the connection District 204 needs, said Rick Mervine, an Aurora alderman and volunteer with OnLight Aurora.

"Our objective is to be able to connect education, medical centers, arts and entertainment, social services and businesses — both economic development and existing businesses," to high-speed Internet at a low cost, Mervine said. "This is just the first step with 204."

The district will pay $197,820 over the life of the five-year agreement, but board members who unanimously approved the contract Monday night said OnLight offered savings over other possible vendors.

"The partnership is of tremendous value," Gorbatkin said. "The big positive is with the availability of the grant funds and the willingness of OnLight to aggressively price their services, it made this a win-win."

West Aurora schools, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and Aurora Christian School already are using OnLight connections, and Mervine said more partnerships are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Construction on the connection between Metea Valley High School and the Crouse Education Center will begin later this summer, with the service set to be live by February.