MHS, LHS receive ACCESS funds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 8, 2007

Funds from the state&8217;s Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide program will allow two area schools, Marengo High School and Linden High School, to upgrade their facilities for distance learning.

The program began with 24 pilot sites in Jan. 2006 and this new round of funding will allow $8.5 million for 100 new ACCESS sites.

Marengo County Schools currently use their distance-learning technology to provide real-time classroom interaction between Marengo High School, Sweet Water High School, A.L. Johnson High School and John Essex High School.

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Kim Smith teaches Spanish at Sweet Water High School, but she reaches Spanish classes at the three other schools through this technology. While she presents her lesson, students can ask questions, just like if she was in the classroom with them. A facilitating teacher is in each classroom linked by the technology.

Superintendent Luke Hallmark said the Marengo County School System plans to use money for upgrading the distance-learning facilities they already have in place, especially in the area of technology and the course offered at the schools.

Hallmark said their small size is what makes programs like these so beneficial.

Another reason for the program is because of the size of the school system.

The combined enrollment for the Marengo County School is system is just around 1,500 students.

The system has been awarded $100,000 to enhance this technology, and Hallmark said they might look into offering some music courses as well.

Linden High School has also been awarded $85,000 in ACCESS funds to upgrade their facilities.

Interim Superintendent Scott Collier said they will possibly use the funds to create a second distance learning-capable class at the high school or even put one in at George P. Austin Junior High School.

Collier said the funds have to be in use by Jan. 1, 2008,

so they may have a better idea about to use the equipment the best by next school year, because there is already a plan in place for this school year.

One of the considerations when linking up with another school is a compatible schedules. As of now, there is at least one ACCESS site in every county in the state, and they all have the option with linking with any of them.

Collier said regardless of whether they decide to link locally, such as with Marengo County Schools, or with other schools in other parts of the state, the technology will be a benefit.