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News Release
Release No. STELPRD4013413
ContactJill Rees503.414.3302
Printable Version  Printable Version
USDA and North Central Education Service District Bring Cutting Edge, Interactive Distance Learning Opportunities to Remote, Rural Areas

Portland, Dec 08, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a $312,285 grant to North Central Education Service District (NCESD) to enhance distance learning opportunities for schoolchildren and adult learners in Oregon’s Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler Counties.

According to North Central Education Service District Superintendent Mike Carroll, the program is more engaging and powerful than traditional distance education methods. “It is designed to foster one-to-one interaction with instructors so that students can show their work and prove they are learning.”

Funding is provided through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program administered by USDA Rural Development.

“This program delivers educational and medical opportunities that are urgently needed in remote, rural areas,” Vilsack said. “President Obama has said that no matter where you live in America, you should have access to quality educational opportunities. Rural Americans deserve the same opportunities for education and medical care as metropolitan-area residents, and these funds will make that happen.”

Through its existing program, the district operates a network of 11 distance learning conferencing sites and one mobile unit to serve more than 700 schoolchildren and 100 adults scattered across 3,700 square miles. The program allows these learners to interact with specialized instructors at distant institutions and students in the region, state, around the US, and in other countries. In addition, students are able to receive courses in health and medicine, natural resources, computer technology, business and bookkeeping, core subjects, and dual-credit college courses. With the enhanced program, students and adults will be given access to additional opportunities for not only courses but varying platforms for learning.

Along with $200,000 in district funding, the USDA grant will allow for increased Internet capacity, updated wireless access points, and the purchase of hardware, software and advanced teleconferencing equipment. Funds will also be used to provide professional development and mentoring to help teachers fully utilize the technology.

Moving forward, NCESD says it would like to add a number of mobile devices. “Our next step is to secure resources for iPads and iPods that will allow for interactive learning in many more locations, as well as outdoor settings...” said North Central Education Service District Assistant Superintendent Rinda Montgomery Conwell.

The project is among three in Oregon and 100 funded across the nation through the current DLT program announcement. Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend will receive $440,000 to install distance learning facilities with advanced video teleconferencing equipment at the airport. From there, local volunteers with rural fire protection and port districts will be able to access fire science, search and rescue, and emergency medical training.

Providence Health and Services will also receive $253,260 to bring their Telestroke Network to five additional critical access hospitals in Eastern and Central Oregon. Through secure videoconferencing, neurologists in Portland can help out in emergency rooms hundreds of miles away, providing faster access to treatment and better outcomes for stroke patients.

“In all, USDA funded three exciting and life-saving Oregon projects through the current announcement,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker.

For a complete list of awardees that will receive funding under Rural Development’s DLT Program across the nation, please click here.

Awards are contingent upon the recipients’ meeting the terms of the agreement with USDA.

Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President wants the federal government to be the best possible partner for rural businesses, entrepreneurs and people who want to live, work and raise their families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has a portfolio of more than $160 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Visit for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

Last Modified:08/29/2012 
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