By EDWARD HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer
St. Peter School has been making some technological strides with financial help from an electronics recycling program.
Last summer, the Catholic elementary school carried out a major upgrade to the wireless Internet system serving five buildings owned by the Church of St. Peter. The upgrade was made possible mainly by tapping into funds generated by the recycling program, which has been in effect at St. Peter since 1999.
Under the program, the school collects donations of old cellphones; empty ink-jet and laser printing cartridges; laptop computers and various small electronics, such as iPods, iPads and MP3 players that no longer work. These items are then boxed and shipped to an electronics recycler known as the FundingFactory.
In return, the school receives points based on its collections. The points can be converted to cash or used to buy new electronic items from the FundingFactory's catalog.
Sally Blickhan, St. Peter School technology coordinator, said the school usually elects to take cash and keeps it in a special fund for technology-related needs. Blickhan said one big project that benefited from the fund involved the wireless upgrade, which expanded services throughout the main school building; the gym, which houses preschool and kindergarten classrooms; the junior high building for grades 7 and 8; the parish rectory; and the church basement, where meeting rooms and a cafeteria are located.
Blickhan said the wireless upgrade was badly needed because of the explosive growth in the use of wireless devices in the school. For example, all teachers were issued iPads a little more than a year ago to supplement their instructional techniques. In addition, she said, many students bring their own iPads or iPod Touch devices to school, and some educators and students use laptops computers -- all of which rely on wireless Internet connections.
"So we had to make sure that our system could support it," Blickhan said.
The school previously offered some limited wireless service, but "it wasn't strong enough to support what was going on," she said.
But now, thanks to the upgrade, all the buildings are better-equipped to handle the growing wireless demands.
"It works beautifully," Blickhan said.
She said the recycling program has aided the school's technology needs in other ways over the years.
"That's the first spot we go to when we need to get a project done," Blickhan said.
Since its start, the recycling program has flourished. Last year, the FundingFactory announced that St. Peter ranked 15th out of 22,000 schools participating in the national fundraising program. At that time, St. Peter had raised more than $23,000 by recycling items dropped off by parents, parishioners and other community members.
"We've been so lucky" to get such strong support, Blickhan said.
School officials welcome more donations of old cellphones, printer cartridges and small electronic equipment.
Items can be dropped off at the main entrance to the school at 2500 Maine, where collection boxes are available. When the school is closed, Blickhan said, items can be taken to the parish office.
Blickhan emphasized that the school will only take "small" electronic items.
"We're not taking desktop computers, but we do take laptops and smaller electronic equipment," she said.
For more information about the recycling program, go to www.fundingfactory.com.