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Toombs, Wheeler Schools Benefit From State Rural Initiative Funding

Toombs and Wheeler counties are among area school systems that will benefit from the first round of state-funded improvement initiatives for rural schools.

Toombs will receive $81,750 and Wheeler will receive $100,000 through the FY 22 ESSER III ARP CTAE Equipment Grant.

The first initiatives are designed to expand internet connectivity, develop new literacy skills and promote workforce development, among other goals. The state Board of Education voted Friday to approve a series of initiatives recommended by the new Georgia Department of Education’s (GaDOE) Office of Rural Education and Innovation.

Established in July, the office’s goal is to address educational needs in rural schools and districts and provide a voice for the needs of rural Georgia in K-12 education policy.

The funding initiatives include: • $1.72 million to 43 school districts to expand broadband connectivity. Gov. Brian Kemp directed federal COVID-19 relief funds to double the bandwidth for every K-12 school. Most school districts have the capacity within their network equipment to utilize the additional bandwidth, but 43 districts will need to procure additional network equipment.

• $4.93 million in grants to 57 school districts to outfit middle- and high-school career, technical, and agricultural education labs.

• More than $18 million to 22 school districts to support district-wide literacy plans designed to improve student literacy learning, instruction, school climate, and development of community partnerships.

• $10,000 grants to each of four school districts – Ben Hill County Schools, Clay County Schools, Lumpkin County Schools, and Twiggs County Schools – to help them develop schoolbased health clinics.

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