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CA BOCES receives USDA distance learning grant

CATTARAUGUS — Cattaraugus-Allegany Board of Cooperative Education received a $218,787 Rural Utility Services grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. This grant brings high-definition video conferencing to schools in Allegany-Limestone, Bolivar-Richburg, Hinsdale, Randolph, Salamanca and West Valley.

“It’s all about providing our high school students with a greater depth of transcript upon graduation,” said Lynda Quick, district superintendent and chief executive officer of CA BOCES. “Distance and online learning opportunities are growing in the region, and leaders and teachers see the need to bring unique subjects and courses to our students.”

Through BOCES’ Instructional Support Services Division, about 40 distance learning courses are already being utilized between schools in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. Districts can share the expertise of their teachers, while giving students the opportunity to take classes not offered in their home schools.

“Distance learning has allowed students to take college-level courses, like biology, statistics, Spanish and psychology, as well as electives, such as veterinary sciences and unique foreign languages. The video conferencing equipment connects students beyond the four walls of their school, to access these learning opportunities,” explained Brian Crawford, ISS program manager for learning resources.

“In this grant,” he noted, “We sought special equipment called ‘eagle eye director’ that will focus the camera automatically on the person speaking, through voice and face recognition, to make the class more like a face-to-face class. This way, students can engage more with other students, from site to site. Getting students to talk with each other is essential to learning.”

The grant, which will be implemented over a two-year phase, also has provisions to help move the region toward recording video conference lessons. Students will be able to go back and review content, if necessary.

Crawford noted, “Over the past 15 years, the USDA Rural Utility Services grants have brought more than $2 million in video conference equipment and infrastructure, to make our region a leader in [New York State] distance learning education.”
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