The Southeast Region Career and Technical Center is receiving an early present this year.
A $390,475 grant was approved Wednesday, Nov. 20 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Department. Allocated from USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program, the money will be be used for expanding rural education access.
“It was approved to upgrade and replace distance education learning equipment and teleconferencing capacity in the 10 southeast North Dakota public schools and career and technical centers in Oakes and Wahpeton,” said Dan Rood, Jr., the center’s director.
The southeast center and its member schools were notified by the offices of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, both R-N.D. Hoeven is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s agriculture subcommittee, which also includes Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
“These grants will help grow our health care workforce by providing equipment and broadband infrastructure that will enable North Dakota students to better access important career training, supporting development and growth in our rural communities,” Hoeven said.
An additional $214,366 grant was awarded to Bismarck State College for the expansion of its nursing education program and the funding of interactive, broadband facilities. Up to 150 rural nursing students are expected to benefit from the grant, Hoeven’s office stated.
Nearly 2,000 students, including 1,607 secondary students and 280 adults, are expected to benefit from the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center’s grant.
“This investment comes as part of a $42.6 million nationwide investment by the USDA into the expansion of rural education and healthcare access,” Cramer’s office stated.
Altogether, $604,841 was allocated to North Dakota facilities.
The “Greater Southwest” interactive learning consortium began in 1991 as an analog video network backed by Dickey Rural Networks and Red River Telephone. In the nearly 30 years since, it has evolved and been upgraded to include digital technology.
“This grant award will allow public schools to increase the quality and depth of classes and programs offered to area high school students,” Rood said.
Courses offered include dual-credit math and language arts classes from North Dakota State College of Science, plus foreign language, art, advanced placement biology, computer classes, health and medical science, marketing, psychology and sociology, sports marketing and patient care technician/emergency medical training.
“(The training) is crucial for helping our rural communities staff their volunteer ambulance services,” Rood said.
Grants were allocated throughout the United States, the USDA stated. More than $700,000 was allocated for programs in Minnesota.
A $500,000 allocation to the Education Innovation Partners Coop Center is earmarked to provide distance learning services to 28 sites across six northeastern Minnesota counties. Up to 21,000 students and 1,500 teachers are expected to benefit.
A $234,648 allocation to CentraCare Health System is earmarked to establish a telemedicine program to address a rural shortage of specialty care physicians. Video equipment will be placed at 10 locations in nine central Minnesota counties.
Four grants, totaling nearly $1,6 million, were allocated for programs in South Dakota. Two grants, totaling nearly $850,000 for Avera Health, are earmarked for medical facilities in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.
Upgrades in the ever-changing digital world, in addition to the state of North Dakota’s commitment to better broadband technology, are considered key factors to helping rural schools provide opportunities in the communities they serve.
“This upgrade will also help school districts meet staffing challenges in specialty areas and provide early college access on a larger scale,” Rood said.
Equipment, ITV studio and delivery upgrades are scheduled to be completed in early 2020. Daily News will continue to follow this story.