Collarobration earns Williamstown schools $$$

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By Bryan Marshall

FALMOUTH— Williamstown Independent Schools will share a $498,546 federal grant with Pendleton and Gallatin County school districts to implement a distance learning system.
The project will enable the three school districts to share a system that will allow teachers to share classes as one large virtual school.
It will include the use of mobile media carts, video conferencing equipment, white boards and interactive displays.
The program is designed with community participation in mind and will provide a resource platform for residents that will enable them to improve their skills and job prospects.
“This is the probably the best Christmas present we could have gotten in our efforts in college and career readiness and the opportunity for dual credit offerings,” said Williamstown Superintendent Sally Skinnner. “It just opens up lots of opportunities with different universities and being able to take classes that way. At the elementary level, it will be easier to partner with other classrooms as far as China.”
Other uses of the distance learning system include providing professional development opportunities for teachers and sharing teachers between schools.
The grant announcement was made Dec. 12 at Pendleton County High School with Skinner joined by Tammy Steele, district chief information officer.
The funding is provided through the United States Department of Agriculture Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program and includes five projects serving rural residents in more than a dozen counties.
The grants, administered by USDA Rural Development through its Rural Utilities Service, will help fund 100 distance learning and telemedicine projects across the country.
Kentucky’s five projects total nearly $1.4 million and will benefit rural residents in 13 counties.
“We feel very fortunate that we were able to receive more awards than most states did,” said Tom Fern, state director for rural development.
Williamstown’s portion of the grant is about $90,000, said Skinner.
One mobile lab will be used at the elementary school while another will be shared by the middle and high school.
The system should be up and running by next school year, said Skinner.
Michele Crowley, chief information officer for Pendleton County Schools, initiated the grant application and asked Williamstown and Gallatin County to join in.
“With our districts being so close together in proximity, we’ve worked together on many other projects,” she said. “I felt like we had a great team. The grant will allow our schools to teleconference with schools within our district, our state and our country. We will be able to have full class instruction with a teacher across the country. Students will be able to have two-way conversations with curators of a museum, watch a surgery or speak with a doctor at a research facility or even partner with a classroom in China. The resources are endless.”