SAD 33 nets grant for distance learning equipment

SAINT JOHN VALLEY – Maine School Administrative District No. 33 in will receive a federal grant of $366,459 to strengthen its distance learning capabilities, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture press release Thursday, July 14.

The district will be able to use Rural Development funds to purchase video-telepresence equipment that will enable real-time distance learning activities among the district and partners: Northern Maine Community College and SAD 1 in Presque Isle, SAD 24 in Van Buren, SAD 27 in Fort Kent, SAD 54 in the Skowhegan area, SAD 70 in Hodgdon, RSU 39 in Caribou, the Madawaska School Department and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs in Presque Isle.

The equipment will provide rural students and adult learners with access to relevant content involving advanced placement courses and dual-enrollment college classes, as well as vocational training, professional development and continuing education courses. This project includes the Tribal Trust area of Aroostook Band of Micmacs of Presque Isle, Maine.

The local project is one of 81 distance learning and telemedicine projects, located in 32 states, that will help connect rural communities with medical and educational experts in other parts of the country, increasing access to health care, substance misuse treatment and advanced educational opportunities.

Other state awardees included: MaineHealth of Portland, $398,692; Regional School Unit 87 (SAD 23) in Carmel, $312,744.; SAD 4 in Guilford, $239,235; and RSU 13 in Rockland, $327,466.

“Using technology for educational opportunities and medical care can provide services that are often unavailable in rural areas,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program helps communities better meet the needs of their residents.

“For example, opioid and other substance misuse disproportionately affect rural areas, and telemedicine is proving to be an effective tool for treating patients when experts otherwise would be unavailable,” he said. “Hospitals, schools and training centers across the country are successfully using telecommunications to deliver specialized care to area residents, and we are proud to bring these capabilities to 81 additional communities.”

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “I am so pleased these five Maine organizations from across our state have received grants through this important program. Distance learning and telemedicine services are critical to the quality of life for rural Maine residents, and these funds will ensure that these programs are accessible, regardless of their rural location.”

USDA Rural Development has area offices Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston and Scarborough, as well as a state office in Bangor.

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