OLEAN – Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES was recently awarded a $466,686 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grant, known as the Rural Utility Service (RUS) Distance Learning Grant, will be implemented by CABOCES and 11 area school districts to upgrade video conferencing equipment and other technologies.

The upgrades will provide new portable, high definition video conference capabilities to all three BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) Centers as well as the school districts of Belfast, Bolivar-Richburg, Cuba-Rushford, Franklinville, Friendship, Genesee Valley, Hinsdale, Olean, Salamanca, Scio and Wellsville. Grant implementation will begin immediately so students and teachers can take advantage of a variety of distance learning opportunities including videoconference courses, virtual field trip experiences and expanded access to nanotechnology resources.

This is not the first USDA RUS Distance Learning Grant received in this region, CABOCES officials said. The Distance Learning Team at CABOCES has been applying for and receiving RUS grants since 1997, resulting in eight previous awards and millions of dollars in technology advancements for our schools.

“Over the years, USDA funding has built a virtual school in our region,” said CABOCES District Superintendent and CEO Lynda Quick.

More than 40 virtual classes connect via video conference every single day, she explained, allowing schools to share the instructional expertise of outstanding faculty members. Additionally, hundreds of students can participate in other online courses because of this funding. These virtual courses are critical in expanding offerings in small rural schools that, over time, have been stripped of the ability to offer many AP, college credit or elective courses to their students.

Quick added, “This award helps put a dent in leveling the playing field. It helps our students build transcripts that can be competitive in the post-secondary arena.”