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October 1, 2021 – The Georgia Department of Education's Office of Rural Education & Innovation is announcing its first round of initiatives to support rural schools and districts, including funding to expand internet connectivity, promote workforce development, support the development of literacy/foundational skills, and combat nonacademic barriers to learning.
“We are committed to supporting rural schools and districts and closing the opportunity gaps that often affect students in rural areas," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “These projects undertaken by the Office of Rural Education & Innovation, led by Deputy Superintendent Bronwyn Ragan-Martin, are a strong first step toward the goal of renewing rural Georgia and ensuring every child, in every part of the state, has access to opportunities that will prepare them for a bright future."
Today, the State Board of Education approved Superintendent Woods' recommendations in the following areas.
In partnership with GaDOE Office of Technology
GaDOE will award a total of $1,720,000 to 43 school districts to help them fully utilize the expanded bandwidth being provided to each school district in the state.
Governor Brian Kemp directed federal COVID-19 relief funds to double the bandwidth for every K-12 school from 100MBPS to 200MBPS. Most school districts had the capacity within their network equipment to utilize the additional bandwidth, but 43 districts will need to procure additional network equipment to fully utilize the extra bandwidth. Each school district will be reimbursed up to $40,000. Click here for the list of funded districts.
In partnership with GaDOE Office of Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education
Fifty-seven school districts will receive grants to outfit middle- and high-school CTAE labs. These labs allow students to receive hands-on, industry-standard instruction in career pathways. The funds total $4,931,061 and the list of awarded districts is available here.
Foundational Skills & Literacy
In partnership with GaDOE Office of Teaching & Learning
A total of $18,298,488 will be awarded to 22 school districts to support the implementation of districtwide literacy plans – awarded districts will work to improve student literacy learning, teacher delivery of instruction, school climate, and development of community partnerships. The grant is funded using federal COVID-19 relief funds, and the awarded districts are those who submitted L4GA grant applications and received eligible scores, but were initially unable to receive the grant due to limited funding. Click here for the list of selected districts.
Nonacademic Barriers to Learning
In partnership with GaDOE Office of Whole Child Supports
Four school districts – Ben Hill County Schools, Clay County Schools, Lumpkin County Schools, and Twiggs County Schools – will receive $10,000 grants to help them develop school-based health clinics. Additionally, Emory University will provide technical assistance, content-area expertise, and structured planning workshops to each school district during the process. There is evidence that school-based health clinics lead to improved student performance, reduced dropout rates, less absenteeism, improved staff morale, and more.
“I am delighted that our office is able to begin our work in supporting and providing resources for rural schools and districts in Georgia," Dr. Ragan-Martin said. “This support will change the lives of students and families in Georgia."
Established in July 2021, the Office of Rural Education & Innovation works to address educational needs in rural schools and districts and provide a continued, cabinet-level voice for the needs of rural Georgia in K-12 education policy.