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Grant for center will help with funding

Fourth in a series Finding financial assistance is always a challenge for schools, which is why every dollar counts. Ten regional schools and the Roughrider Education Services Program have applied for a state grant to help fund their joint ventur...

Fourth in a series

Finding financial assistance is always a challenge for schools, which is why every dollar counts.

Ten regional schools and the Roughrider Education Services Program have applied for a state grant to help fund their joint venture, the Roughrider Career and Technology Center, which educators hope will offer further opportunities for students to enrich their education.

The proposed center provides a virtual delivery system for students, teachers and administrators using interactive television modules to connect classrooms without any physical traveling by staff or students. The center also provides a link to a new asynchronous system which allows teachers to record their lectures or classroom lessons to be played back at anytime.

This January, the schools find out if they get a grant to help make the center a reality. The grant application was completed in November. The grant is part of a new funding package implemented by the Legislature during its last session and there are two grants available for the western part of the state.

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The grant could be up to $600,000, with the match of $200,000 shared by the school districts.

The center would include public schools in Dickinson, Beach, Hettinger, Richardton-Taylor, South Heart, Hebron, Glen Ullin, Killdeer, Belfield and New England.

Each school is responsible for its own technical equipment needed to be part of the virtual center. The grant also provides funding assistance for the school that needs help with a 75-25 split between the school and the state.

The school funds 75 percent of the cost while the state would provide 25 percent for only the first two years of the ongoing grant agreement. After that the state continues to help and by the fifth year funding assistance remains at 38 percent.

The center's funding is based on three parts required by the state's Career and Technical Education board, which is discussed in detail in the grant application.

"All center schools will contribute matching funds based on a set formula for student participation starting at $2,000 for the first 10 students attending the center with schools enrolling zero students in a given year to be assessed at $2,000," states the grant application. "This set fee would increase by $1,500 for every 10 students."

One example is if Richardton-Taylor Public Schools enrolled 12 students in the center's programs, then its base participation fee is $3,500. If Dickinson enrolls 43 students its base fee is $8,000.

The second funding part is based on actual student enrollments in center programs, with each school assessed an additional $300 for every student enrolled.

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The grant gives another example of how this would work.

"Accordingly, if Richardton-Taylor enrolls 12 students it will be assessed $3,500 (base-fee) plus another $300 per student or $3,600 for a total of $7,100," it states. "Dickinson's 43 students will cost the district a total $20,900."

The base fee for Dickinson's total would be $8,000 plus an additional $12,900 per student participation.

Thirdly, each school is assessed at an individual level based upon its actual usage of other center programs and services such as career counseling services, ITV labs, Internet costs, asynchronous equipment and software license, mobile technology labs, student transportation and other aspects.

"Most of the start-up money school districts are already spending," Dickinson Public School Superintendent Dr. Paul Stremick said. "The match is small with the exception of the equipment and that's still a small amount with the school only paying 25 percent."

The schools cost share the staffing needs, while each school is accountable for its own equipment needs. However, the grant helps out each school with those costs.

"Dickinson will have to buy the asynchronous system equipment, which will be very little cost with the grant," Stremick said. "We'll access the courses through the server housed at Dickinson State University and cost share with them."

For Stremick, one of the key concepts of the center is the chance for schools to share resources which already exist for many of the districts involved.

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For most superintendents and other educators, having the center doesn't come down to the cost savings.

"We are looking at providing a quality program, which is not always about looking for cost savings," Glen Ullin Public School Superintendent Richard Ott said. "We can't promise people we're going to be saving money. We will be improving the services we offer students."

When you initiate something new there's always going to be challenges, but Ott doesn't see anything insurmountable with getting the center on track if the grant goes through, he added.

Providing more for students and the community is the important thing, even if there won't be big cost savings, Belfield Public School Superintendent Darrel Remington said.

"When you look at the distribution with numbers involved it comes down to a small contribution (by a school)," Killdeer Public School Superintendent Gary Wilz said. "With this center we'll be able to offer classes in technology, business, agriculture and many other career clusters which are about preparing our students for their futures."

At this time, the health career teacher would be a new hire since none of the 10 schools has one full time.

Otherwise, if there is more than one teacher in a curriculum area to teach a class, then the teachers' reimbursements is split between the districts that hired the teacher.

A meeting with the Career and Technical Education Review Committee for the grant is Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the state Capitol. The presentation by Stremick and Wilz is open to the public.

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