US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that recipients in 34 states and one territory will receive funding to improve access to health care and educational services in rural areas.

Roane County Schools has been selected to receive a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant in the amount of $298,339.

Rural Development funds will be used to purchase equipment for a distance learning network between 12 public school sites and West Virginia University in two counties of North West and North Central West Virginia.

Challenged by factors of isolation and poverty endemic to rural Appalachia, the two school districts have teamed up to address these and related issues of high dropout rates, obesity, lack of technical job skills and the need for professional development.

Media carts equipped with desktop video units, PC tablets, and computer workstations will be deployed at each school location.

West Virginia University at Parkersburg will serve as the academic hub, offering an array of classes, including advanced placement and college level classes and professional development for teachers.

Roane County Board of Education offices will serve as the administrative hub and house the control equipment of multi-point bridge, video communications server, other management software, including scheduling and firewall transversal functions.

Nearby Roane General Hospital will link into the system and offer wellness programs and exercise classes.

"This program delivers educational and medical opportunities that are urgently needed in remote, rural areas," Vilsack said.

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