October 12, 2006

NEMO Network Receives $207,496 USDA Grant To Improve System

Education has come a long way since the one-room school house that many area residents remember. On October 2, Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr announced funding to help rural schools take another leap forward.

Dorr announced that one of the 103 Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants awarded in 2006 will go to the NEMO Net Schools of Scotland, Clark, Schuyler and Marion County and North Shelby. Overall more than $25 million was awarded by the USDA Rural Development to aid improved educational and medical service opportunities in rural parts of 38 states in the US.

The NEMO Net will receive $207,496 to update and upgrade the fiber optics network that connect the schools and is used for shared education opportunities. The network has been operating on the original equipment purchased when the network was established 12 years ago.

We sought funding last year to help renovate the system, said Scotland County R-I superintendent Dave Shalley. The equipment is in its 12th year, so if we hadnt received this grant we would have had to make some tough decisions on the network.

Shalley stated the funding will allow the renovation of the schools interactive TV room, where classes are offered over the NEMO Network to and from the other network schools. Currently Spanish and Sociology are taught by SCR-I instructors over the network. SCR-I students receive US History 1 & 2, Speech, English Composition and College Algebra, which are all taught by instructors at other member schools.

Not only does the network allow students to take classes that would otherwise not be available at SCR-I, it also makes it possible for students to earn college dual credit. The network courses are certified by CMSU, Moberly Area Community College or Hannibal-LaGrange to allow the students to earn credit toward a college degree.

The USDA grant will further expand these options. The current NEMO Network hardware creates a closed system, only available to the member schools. New equipment purchased with the grant will make the NEMO Network an open system, meaning the software and hardware will be compatible with other systems. This will allow the schools to transmit and receive from a much larger number of schools.

This could expand the course offerings to students in the network including the possibility of more dual credit opportunities. The new equipment is slated to be up and running for the 2007-08 school year.

Shalley noted in addition to renovating the network, the funding will allow the school to upgrade the ITV classroom with new cameras, amplifiers and additional tools for the teachers.

The superintendent noted that while the ITV classroom is occupied every hour of the school day, the open network could ultimately lead to hosting additional college courses during extended hours in the evening.

The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program (DLT) was created to encourage, improve, and make affordable the use of telecommunications, computer networks and related technology for rural communities to improve access to educational and/or medical services. Fifty seven of the grants announced October 2 will fund projects designed to provide improved medical service and 46 will provide improved educational opportunities. Since 2001, 483 grants totaling over $166 million have been awarded under the program.

This program connects communities to medical services and educational opportunities they would not otherwise have, said Dorr. Our focus is to ensure that all rural Americans have access to state of the art services through our rapidly expanding telecommun-ications system.

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