The Edison Local School District has been awarded nearly $500,000 dollars in federal funding to bolster telecommunications and improve education and health for students and families living in rural areas.
The district gained Rural Utilities Service District Learning and Telemedicine (RUS-DLT) grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development for $498,015 while Edison kicked in a $75,000 local match. District Administrative Assistant Fatima Smuck, who submitted the grant with technology coordinator Rachael Granatir, said it will help acquire equipment to provide educational programs, instruction and information to students and teachers who are located in rural areas. The funding also includes a telemedicine component to help district families who are unable to access medical and mental health services.
“Our project aims to address critical needs identified including expanding opportunities for students to access STEM resources; providing students with access to STEM industry leaders and mentors; implementing information technology programs; expanding our current course offerings; expanding our current counseling services for students; and providing professional development for staff to help address student mental health and opioid issues,” Smuck said.
Officials applied for the competitive grant last spring and Smuck said they were first-time recipients. She noted that students and their families will greatly benefit from the distance learning and STEM courses as well as the counseling services.
“We are hoping to start our programs soon. The programs were developed over a period of several months while working with our partners in education, which includes The Village Network, Eastern Gateway Community College and Franciscan University of Steubenville,” she concluded. “The grant will allow us to offer the needed medical and mental health services for our students as well as expand our courses to include more STEM classes. We are excited that we received this grant and the opportunities we have to work with other agencies to help our families.”
The grant will impact about 2,600 students, teachers and parents in Belmont and Jefferson counties and USDA officials believe it will help level the playing field for rural students and also bridge the gap between urban-based healthcare specialists and residents living in remote areas for whom time and travel may present significant challenges.