NEWPORT — Bringing increased technology and communications to a largely rural area could reduce the disparity between students and residents of SAD 48 and their counterparts in urban areas. A grant application is under way at Nokomis Regional High School to do just that.
According to Nokomis Principal Lyford Beverage, a grant opportunity offered by the Department of Commerce as the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program could bring more than $250,000 to the Greater Newport area. The funds could provide hardware, information and training to create a communications link from the high school to area homes, businesses, and public service agencies, he said.
“This could provide telecommunications and avenues of access to information and services that are seldom available in rural areas, but often are in the urban areas,” Beverage said. “It will reduce the disparity between and among the end-users. People in St. Albans are not likely to have the same access to information that someone in Connecticut would have.”
Beverage envisions the new project as a means of linking homes and businesses, through telephone or cable lines, with the resources available to the school as well as mutual sharing of community services.
Parents would have access to teachers, the school calendar and events, and the school’s connection to on-line services and the Internet. The school would become the primary file-server for a regionwide communications system that would include the six towns of the school district, the two towns served in SAD 38, and other communities on the same telephone exchange. Public service agencies in the area could also offer access and support to its clients through the system.
“Just imagine a student working on a school project able to tie into the school’s information system for research,” he said. “Ultimately that could develop to interactive communications for students unable to come to school.”
Last year, the school was one of four schools in New England selected by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges to participate in a three-year project to focus community resources on school improvement. The project aims to help rural communities overcome some of the roadblocks students and schools in low-income, rural areas face. The NEASC has promised support toward the new grant application as an extension of its project.
Competition is stiff. Last year, one in 10 applicants was funded and more than 1,000 entered. Beverage expects more applications this year, but feels confident the SAD 48 region can demonstrate the ability to reduce disparity within its rural population. Reducing disparity in the target population is 25 percent of the grant criteria.
Beverage and staff members at Nokomis are trying to contact agencies, businesses and communications systems that could be served or could provide aid with the plans. Deadline for the application is April 20. Anyone with communications interest or expertise is invited to contact Beverage at Nokomis to work with the steering committee.