Nearly a quarter-million dollars in federal grant funding will support distance learning in Kansas for those served by Smoky Hill Learning Center (SHLC).
The funding is part of a $791,638 Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant that will invest in equipment and online platforms for Kansas students – both traditional and adult. The grant under the Rural Utilities Service Program – administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – will go to Kansas Association for Interactive Distance Education (KAIDE) members.
$240,880 – nearly a third of the larger statewide grant – is earmarked specifically for Smoky Hill Education Service Center and SHLC.
Troy Marseline, SHLC Coordinator, said this announcement from the USDA was great news for online learners the center serves.
“This significant amount of funding greatly helps students across Kansas to stay on track and earn a high school diploma on time,” he said. “These grant dollars will be a tremendous help to our program and the students we serve for the next three years.”
For SHLC, the money will purchase computers, tablets, interactive “smart” boards, online learning platform licenses, and more.
Chris Moddelmog, SHESC executive director, said the grant would help meet essential needs in rural education.
“Supporting interactive distance learning has always been important to KAIDE and SHESC, but doing so has become even more critical during this time of COVID-19 concerns,” Moddelmog said. “Many schools are using at least some form of distance learning to meet students’ needs, so having adequate technology and up-to-date equipment is essential now and no longer a luxury.”
Lynne Hinrichsen, USDA Rural Development State Director for Kansas, said that the USDA helps make rural America stronger and healthier, leading the entire nation to prosper.
“Distance learning provides more educational resources to difficult-to-reach populations,” Hinrichsen said. “This project enhances the focus on rural education.”
The KAIDE project will expand educational opportunities for rural residents within the five member areas, encompassing 36 counties in Kansas. The SHESC-area schools participating in the grant are: USD 307 Ell-Saline, USD 325 Phillipsburg, USD 334 Southern Cloud (Miltonvale and Glasco), USD 347 Kinsley-Offerle, USD 426 Pike Valley. Students at Victory House in Brewster, Kansas, and remote learners with USD 473 Chapman will also benefit from the grant through the Smoky Hill Learning Center program. All SHESC member districts and schools will also benefit indirectly through interactions with education consultants, who will use some of the new equipment purchased with grant funds.
Additional SHESC member districts that are a part of the Interactive Consortium Academic Network (I-CAN) will also benefit from the grant. Those districts are: USD 110 Thunder Ridge, USD 269 Palco, USD 270 Plainville, USD 271 Stockton, USD 292 Wheatland, USD 392 Osborne County, and USD 399 Paradise.
The Kansas grant is just one part of a larger $72 million USDA investment across 40 states, benefitting more than 12 million rural residents.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.