Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday Butte County Office of Education (BCOE) was selected to receive a grant to help expand access to education to 13 schools in the North State.
"Expanding access to broadband will greatly improve educational and economic opportunities for rural residents," Vilsack said. "Broadband gives students more courses to choose from, more skills to use in high-paying jobs, and more opportunities to enroll in colleges and universities offering the best education available today. We must make needed investments to connect our rural residents to the 21st century technology that will help them compete in a global economy."
BCOE received a $284,239 grant to purchase state-of-the-art video conferencing equipment for 13 school sites in Butte, Plumas, Tehama and Trinity Counties with connections to the California K-12 High Speed Network. To help address budget cuts, teacher shortage and other challenges, the distance learning system will increase opportunities for rural schools to collaborate and increase access to a wider and deeper curriculum and instruction. In addition, BCOE will purchase equipment that can be used to broadcast and archive field trips and instruction from remote locations for rural students.
"We are very excited about this award and the opportunities it presents to offer professional development and additional courses and subjects at multiple levels to more than 3,000 students in rural and remote communities," said Tim Taylor, Butte County Office of Education Superintendent. "We anticipate having all the necessary equipment in place by the beginning of July, well before the new school year."
Investments are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant program. It provides funding to rural hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries for equipment and technical assistance for telemedicine and distance learning. Grant recipients must demonstrate that they serve rural America, prove there is an economic need and provide at least 15 percent in matching funds.
"It's important that our rural communities have the same access to quality educational opportunities that their urban counterparts have long taken for granted," said Glenda Humiston, USDA Rural Development California State Director. "We are proud to partner with Butte County Office of Education to help make that happen for thousands of California's rural students."
Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $150 million in the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program and supported more than 3,300 educational institutions. Vilsack's announcement included a total of nearly $16 million for projects in 25 states. View the full list of recipients for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants. Each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
BCOE participant sites include:
Butte County: Gridley High School, Berry Creek Elementary School, Feather Falls Elementary School, Concow Elementary School
Plumas County: Portola Junior/Senior High School, Quincy Junior/Senior High School, Greenville Junior/Senior High School, Chester Junior/Senior High School
Tehama County: Lassen View School
Trinity County: Hayfork High School, Valley High School, Trinity High School, Southern Trinity High School