USDA grants to help enhance access to adult ed

9 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Administrators at the Region Two School of Applied Technology in Houlton were excited Monday after hearing that they would receive two federal grants totaling nearly $1 million to enhance adult education access statewide.

The funding is part of a combined $2.68 million in grants awarded by U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development for distance learning and telemedicine projects in Maine communities.

One $498,825 grant will go to the Region Two School in partnership with the Rural Maine Public Health Consortium, David Keaton, director of Region Two, said Monday. The funding will be used to connect the Pleasant Point Adult Education Center on the Passamaquoddy Tribal Reservation and 48 other adult education centers throughout southern and eastern Maine.

“It will basically place teleconferencing units in places that previously had not had any,” he said. “The large list of places without equipment was a detriment to the program. The places that didn’t have any equipment was scattered statewide. We are really excited about this.”

Keaton said that Region Two will serve as the fiscal agent and lead organization for the grant, overseeing the project as well as the sister project with Maine Adult Education Consortium while the University of Maine serves as technology hub for both projects. Educational content in nursing, allied health and mental health subject areas will originate from Kennebec Valley Community College to all connected education centers. Mobile devices with telepresence packages will be installed at the education centers while cart-mounted video endpoint equipment will be deployed at the hubs and hub/end-user sites. The project also leverages existing video equipment at UMaine, Kennebec Valley Community College and Somerset Public Health.

Keaton said the teleconferencing equipment is going to enable the adult education sites to work closer together, but he said he is not quite sure if they will be ready to use it to teach classes by teleconferencing just yet.

The second grant of $499,378 awarded to Region Two will be used to offer adult classes ranging from basic literacy and high school completion to highly specialized, career-focused training amongst 42 end-user sites. Local residents can then travel to a local facility and because of this grant, choose classes offered from anywhere in the state. An added benefit is that fewer teachers will be required for the area to teach the same number of students, according to USDA Rural Development, reducing duplication of effort and creating opportunity for them to develop and offer new classes.

Region Two includes the sending schools of East Grand, Hodgdon, Houlton, Katahdin and the Southern Aroostook communities, and all will benefit from this grant, Keaton said.

In announcing the grants on Friday, USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel, said the total $2.68 million “represents a major investment in healthcare and education for Maine’s rural and Native American populations.”

The Easton School District also received $499,773 to deploy video-teleconferencing equipment at one hub-site and 27 public schools, one occupational training center and a Micmac facility to facilitate the exchange and sharing of educational and vocational materials among educators, students and adult learners via the Internet.