USDA funding to help GHS students become distance learners in health fields

Gilmer High School will be the indirect recipient of U.S. Department of Agriculture funds when Chattahoochee Technical College fully implements a program that will allow “distance learning capabilities” to reach Gilmer, Pickens and Paulding counties, a USDA news release announced.

The state director for Rural Development Georgia, Joyce White, announced in mid-January that USDA is awarding grants for broadband projects to increase access to job training, educational and health care services.

“Connecting rural communities to education and health care resources is vital for rural prosperity,” White said. “Maximizing broadband capabilities with the DLT (distance learning and telemedicine) program improves quality of life through telemedicine, telehealth and digital learning.”

The grants are supporting projects in more than 35 states including Georgia. Chattahoochee Tech in Jasper is one of the sites and will receive a $480,000 grant to establish the distance learning capabilities.

Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Shanna Wilkes said the system is still “working on the finer details” and will meet with Chattahoochee Tech staff for implementing the endeavor.

“This is an online program where the teacher is employed by Chattahoochee Tech and is based on their campus, but is real-time and totally interactive for our students,” she said. “It will allow us to offer our students courses related to health-care science that we would otherwise not be able to offer.”

Video capability will be established at Gilmer and Pickens high schools, and at the main offices at Paulding County Schools, to enable dual enrollment and teacher professional development, according to the release.

Nationwide, USDA is awarding 72 grants totaling $23.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The program funds equipment that uses broadband to help rural communities connect to advanced learning and specialized medical services.

“It will enable rural students to participate in classes via distance learning to receive the support they need to ensure they graduate on time,” the release states. “Health program classes will be a top priority, given student demand for these classes and the high demand/high-wage nature of health careers.”

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