Today, Representative Bill Owens announced the USDA will fund distance learning and telemedicine upgrades that will connect 41 rural New York schools to advanced placement classes, medical courses, specialized instructors and other resources. The USDA will provide $987,267 in grants to schools within the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) jurisdictions in Jefferson, Lewis, Herkimer, St. Lawrence, Hamilton and Oneida counties.
"Technology closes the distance between students and the people who can teach them the skills they need to land good-paying jobs," Representative Bill Owens said. "I am pleased the USDA recognizes the unique challenges students in rural New York face. These grants will give students a great start as they prepare to develop the skills they need to fill currently-open jobs in the area."
According to the New York State Department of Labor, as of December 13, 2013 there are currently 189 open health care jobs in St. Lawrence County, four in Lewis County, 124 in Jefferson County and five in Herkimer County. Data was not available for Oneida County and Hamilton County reported no open health care jobs for that round of reporting.
"Focusing our resources on training the area's young people for the available jobs is a commonsense investment that will strengthen our economy," Rep. Owens continued.
The BOCES organizations receiving the grants will use the funds to purchase video teleconferencing units. One grant totaling $487,267 will fund upgraded technology and equipment at a BOCES hub site in Watertown that will let the region's students access advanced medical and mental health courses conducted at regional colleges including: Clarkson University, Jefferson Community College, LeMoyne College, Syracuse University and the Syracuse University School of Medicine.
A second grant totaling $500,000 will allow for technological upgrades in St. Lawrence and Lewis counties that will help BOCES consolidate low-demand courses, offer advanced placement courses, and enrichment programs. It will also support individualized learning and special needs education, teacher training, continuing education and adult learning programs. Of the 41 schools receiving technology purchased with the grants, 19 will be able to provide their students with distance learning programs for the first time.