Pa. school district to share $60 in technology grants

January 11, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Pennsylvania schools over the next six years will be sharing $60 million in grant money earmarked for technology and regional networks of research tools.

School districts and career and technology centers in Franklin, York and Adams counties will have telecommunications providers connect their computer systems through the Lincoln Intermediate Unit.

"It will, I think, bring York, Adams and Franklin school districts closer together," said Michael Clemens, executive director of Lincoln Intermediate Unit.


He said linking the computers will put aside geographical distances and give students high-speed access to educational resources like streaming video.

"Our goal is to have everything up and running by the first of July," said Terry Steyer, director of technology service for Lincoln Intermediate Unit.

The Lincoln Intermediate Unit joined with the Capital Area Intermediate Unit, which serves Cumberland, Perry and Dauphin counties, to apply for a portion of the e-Fund School Grant program money administered by the state department of education under Act 183 of 2004.

Steyer said the two intermediate units have been awarded $1.22 million for the first year of their three-year term.

He noted that the e-Fund School Grant program will distribute $10 million a year for six years.

Together, the Lincoln and Capital Area intermediate units serve 49 districts and four career and technology centers with a total of 175,574 public school students over 3,894 square miles in central Pennsylvania, according to Steyer.

"It connects all the schools together on one common network. Kids are going to benefit, but also the community," Steyer said.

He said Sprint, Verizon and TelCove will be developing telecommunications infrastructures in communities, and businesses might later take advantage of a portion of that setup.

The schools can use the technological improvements to share content learning programs in which students use educational software under the direction of teachers. The high-speed connection also will enable schools and career and technology centers to access Internet2, Steyer said.

"Internet2 is a network with no commercial component to it at all," Steyer said.

He said that not only does Internet2 allow for research at the university level, but also a student could turn to it for common uses such as operating an electron microscope in a science lab.

Clemens said computer access is increasingly important in an age when electronic information is available faster than textbooks can be published and distributed.

Grant money will provide each district with 10 megabits per second of connectivity to provide fast and reduced-cost access to the Internet, according to Steyer.

The two intermediate units first looked into creating a network about seven years ago. Higher information technology costs at the time brought the project to an estimated $17 million, said Steyer.

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