ST. PAUL, Minn., Dec 12, 2011 -- The Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) will use two grants from USDA Rural Development to install distance learning technology in 21 schools in North Central Minnesota.
The technology will allow the schools to conduct video conferences between students, parents and teachers, access core and advanced courses at Itasca Community College (ITC), offset staff reductions and budget cuts by offering live classroom sessions to multiple sites, and offer Native American language and cultural courses led by an Ojibwe teacher.
“This type of technology is urgently needed in rural schools,” said Colleen Landkamer, USDA Rural Development State Director. “No matter where you live, you should have access to quality educational opportunities. Rural students deserve the same educational opportunities as metropolitan-area students. These funds make it happen.”
The IASC was formed in 2005 to bring new focus to a partnership of area school districts seeking increased educational opportunities for students. In addition to new opportunities for advanced courses and educational opportunities for students, the distance learning technology will increase access to specialized courses for students entering technical fields, offer training and advanced degree opportunities for local teachers and offset cuts to foreign language courses by using video courses led by ITC staff.
Distance tutoring and remediation courses will be available to students struggling with coursework. The network also will install a content server for recording and streaming video.
“IASC believes that leveling the playing field for children in rural areas can be accomplished by increasing opportunities for students,” said Matt Grose, Chair of the IASC. “Our collective philosophy is that together, we are responsible for the success of all the children in our region and that utilizing the tools provided for in the grant, we can bring 21st century learning and opportunities from around the world to our students and communities.”
“The grants will greatly enhance the opportunities for students in our rural school districts,” said Dr. Mike Johnson, Provost at Itasca Community College and higher education representative for IASC. “Sharing of courses which traditionally are low enrollment will be able to be sent to all districts with a strong partnership in curriculum development and possible college credit with Itasca Community College.”
The grants come from Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program, which provides funding for expanded educational opportunities and increases access to quality healthcare in rural and remote areas.
The IASC grants were two of 100 grants announced totaling over $30 million in 34 states. Since 2009, over $5 million DLT grants have been awarded throughout rural Minnesota.
To learn more about the DLT program and other Rural Development programs, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/mn, or call the local office in Bemidji at (218) 751-1942, ext. 4.
To learn more about the IASC visit http://www.iasc.k12.mn.us.