Maine Adult Education Association Executive Director Shirley Wright has announced that Adult Education in Maine has received two significant federal grants to enhance distance learning for adults across the state. These grants were written in partnership with Region Two School of Applied Technology in Houlton. The funding is part of a federal grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development for distance learning and telemedicine projects in Maine communities.

One $498,825 grant will go to the Region Two School in partnership with the Rural Maine Public Health Consortium, David Keaton, director of Region Two, said Monday. The funding will be used to connect the Pleasant Point Adult Education Center on the Passamaquoddy Tribal Reservation and 48 other adult education centers throughout southern and eastern Maine.

“It will basically place teleconferencing units in places that previously had not had any,” he said. “The large list of places without equipment was a detriment to the program. The places that didn’t have any equipment was scattered statewide. We are really excited about this.”

Region Two will serve as the fiscal agent and lead organization for the grant, overseeing the project with the Maine Adult Education Association while the University of Maine serves as technology hub for both projects. Educational content in nursing, allied health and mental health subject areas will originate from Kennebec Valley Community College to all connected education centers. Mobile devices with telepresence packages will be installed at the education centers while cart-mounted video endpoint equipment will be deployed at the hubs and hub/end-user sites. The project also leverages existing video equipment at UMaine, Kennebec Valley Community College and Somerset Public Health.

New teleconferencing equipment is going to enable the adult education sites to work closer together and eventually teach classes by teleconferencing.

“I think that it will really enhance the programming that we will be able to offer our adult learners,” said Matt Tardie, adult education director for RSU 26, RSU 34, and SAD 22. “We will receive from this grant new technology and equipment in Orono, Old Town and on Indian Island that will allow students to participate in courses that are being held or generated from other locations across the state.”

The second grant of $499,378 awarded to Region Two will be used to offer adult classes ranging from basic literacy and high school completion to highly specialized, career-focused training amongst 42 end-user sites. Local residents can then travel to a local facility and because of this grant, choose classes offered from anywhere in the state. An added benefit is that fewer teachers will be required for the area to teach the same number of students, according to USDA Rural Development, reducing duplication of effort and creating opportunity for them to develop and offer new classes.

“Adult Education programs across the state are excited to set up new equipment and begin training to use it to deliver quality to services to adults in need,” Wright said. “This is a significant amount of money that will be invested in adult learning and job training. We will have to wait for the actual funding to be available, which should happen in the spring, and then get things rolling. This is a wonderful opportunity for all involved.”

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