Fiber Broadband Helps Rural Schools Surpass State Standards

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Deborah Callahan
(706) 552-2595
Candler County’s Innovative Learning Center captivates the minds of students and enhances the staff’s ability to meet state academic standards and learning goals.

In rural Georgia, a high school graduate can earn an extra 12,000 dollars per year. But according to the last census, only three-quarters of the working population in rural Candler County had attained that degree. Building on his predecessors’ vision, Superintendent Fred Longgrear and his colleagues focus on keeping students engaged throughout the school career. During the year, over 1,600 students and their teachers interact with smart boards, virtual reality, 3D printers, and computers at the Innovative Learning Center (ILC), which is connected to the Title I elementary and middle schools. Last year, 550 high school students worked as ILC interns, tutoring the younger students. However, without community and technical support, the ILC wouldn’t have found its shape in reality.

“We had a dream and a vision for high speed connectivity and 21st century equipment in every classroom,” said Dr. Longgrear. At the time, the schools had access to digital subscriber loop technology, which couldn’t provide the needed support. Hearing the concerns, Pineland Telephone Cooperative eagerly sought to help. 

A USDA partner since the 1950s, Pineland recently received two multimillion dollar awards from the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to build 1,800 miles of fiber and deploy expanded video and gigabit enabled broadband packages. Thus, in 2014, the schools gained access to fiber broadband, which provides the reliability and bandwidth needed to ensure that school facilities like the ILC operate smoothly. 

In 2016, the high school graduated over 90 percent of its students, surpassing the state average. “Due to enhanced broadband capability, there’s more flexibility in ways to engage students,” said Dr. Longgrear. This milestone is a testament to the dedicated staff and innovative relationships that have been cultivated over the years, he said. Innovative relationships that bind the public schools to private companies like Pineland and private companies to federal agencies like RUS continue to leverage resources and build networks that support all students, regardless of location or economic status. 

Fast Facts

Obligation Amount$16,498,000
Date of ObligationSeptember 2017
Congressional District12, Representative Allen
Senator's Last NamesIsaakson, Perdue