Thursday, June 7, 2007
Schools get grant for teleconferencing
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs and Quitman County school districts have teamed up with Rust College and the Marshall County Health Department to provide distance learning to high school students.
USDA-Rural Utility Services awarded the consortium a $406,000 grant, which will be used to pay for videoconferencing equipment, curriculum, professional development and healthcare education to students in the two school districts and to schools in Singapore, according to Jones Mays, grant writer for the Holly Springs School District.
USDA district office director Johnny Shell in Batesville played a key role in advising the district of the availability of this grant.
“This is the first grant of this kind for the Holly Springs School System and the only one like it for this year,” Shell said.
A similar grant for telemedicine networking was awarded to Rush Health Systems Inc. in Meridian last year, he said. That grant served as a hub and provided access to diabetic care in eleven rural clinics located in eastcentral Mississippi and southwest Alabama.
The grants are processed and approved out of USDA’s national office.
Holly Springs school superintendent Irene Walton said the equipment brings the ability for teachers and students to distance learn on another level with the agencies in the consortium.
“All agencies will receive equipment and joint-video conferencing will take place between all these entities,” Walton said.
The Ministry of Education in Singapore will also hook up with some classes, Mays said.
Marian Tally with Rust College is excited about the opportunity for Rust faculty to provide AP courses when the high schools only have a few students to enroll in advanced placement.
“They can tune in and work with us at Rust College,” she said. “And we’ll do faculty development to be able to do that.”
Shelia Walton, coordinator of nursing services at the health department, said lots of information can be provided to the schools on subjects like nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, prevention of pregnancy and family planning.
Val Towner, superintendent of Quitman County schools, said he is excited about the rural utility services (RUS) grant.
“The RUS grant will help fill a void in areas where educational opportunities for our students are limited in Quitman County,” he said. “The district will have the capability to implement and strengthen distant learning opportunities for our students. As a small rural, socio-economically challenged school district, it is difficult to offer some educational courses. RUS will help eliminate this issue.”
The state director of USDA-Rural Utility Services, John Rounsaville, said the teleconferencing grant is sizable and comes out of an over $200 million appropriation for Mississippi in the many programs USDA offers in this state.
“That’s thanks to the Congressional delegation, Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran and Rep. Roger Wicker, and their personal staff,” he said.
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