NE Dubois nets $100K tech grant


DUBOIS — The Northeast Dubois County School Corporation has secured a state grant that will bring the district $100,000 for technology equipment.

Monday, district leadership announced that Northeast Dubois was one of 30 school corporations who teamed up with the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning and successfully obtained a Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund grant.

The exact way those dollars will be used locally has yet to be determined.

But Superintendent Bill Hochgesang said they are needed.

“During this pandemic, it’s very important,” Hochgesang said of the money. “Because there were a lot of extra costs involved because of the pandemic. And then after doing what we had to do in the spring with going online, and if we are forced to go with online learning in the future, this money will help greatly with that.”

The grant also provides professional development training in digital leadership, digital learning and social-emotional learning and will allow students to take courses through Indiana Online for free.

Total, $4.8 million total will be split between the 30 schools to fund devices and broadband connectivity in rural areas across the state. The funds will also support professional development that improves educators’ capacity to provide engaging and effective online instruction.

“In addition to providing broadband for rural areas that frequently lack high-speed internet access, $3.3 million in funds will be used to connect families to the internet as well as to buy equipment such as laptops for students and teachers,” reads a University of Indianapolis press release. “The additional $1.5 million is supporting professional development for teachers in the 30 local districts.”

Hochgesang said the dollars his corporation received can go toward either staff or student hardware needs. And they aren’t just restricted to the devices that kids and staff use in their classrooms.

“One of the things we will look into — and I’ll have to get with our tech people — is to maybe provide hot spots for students who have poor service,” Hochgesang said. “Whether they can take them home with them when we go to e-learning, or have areas set up in the community, or put them on buses.”

Hochgesang explained that due to the district’s rural setting, when students and parents worked from home last school year, the large amount of cellphone hot spot usage caused an overload.

“So, we’re hoping to do something that would alleviate that,” he said.

The corporation’s school board would ultimately need to approve any purchase that the $100,000 could be used for. Hochgesang explained that Northeast Dubois has two years to utilize the funding; the grant dollars will come in the form of reimbursed funds for purchases made within that time frame.

“We’re going to take some time, look at our needs, and use this money to provide the best bang for our buck with it,” Hochgesang said.

Northeast Dubois is the only Dubois County school corporation that will receive a slice of this Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund grant. Earlier this year, Southeast Dubois Schools pulled in $55,000 in GEER funding and North Spencer Schools netted $68,000 from the fund and an anonymous donor.

“These grants will allow us to meet the unique needs of rural school districts and ensure that students and teachers have access to the technology they require to succeed,” Janet Boyle, executive director of the Rural Early College Network, said in the press release. “We are grateful to the Governor’s Office for this valuable opportunity to address the immediate concerns of the pandemic and to prepare educators in these school districts for the technological demands of the future.”

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