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Grants To Spur Schools To Join 'Information Highway'

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The U.S. Commerce Department has awarded grants to school districts and educational foundations in 10 states and the District of Columbia to encourage innovative uses of the "information highway" in precollegiate education.

The matching grants were part of $24 million in federal funds awarded in the first round of the department's annual Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program. The program seeks to give the public access to advanced telecommunications technology through schools, libraries, local-government agencies, and postsecondary institutions.

The program is coordinated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is in the vanguard of the Clinton Administration's push to develop advanced information networks.

Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown announced the awards here last week at the National Press Club.

The Administration has left the building of the so-called National Information Infrastructure largely to the private sector, hoping to spur development of the advanced information links by easing regulatory restrictions on telecommunications providers.

The Commerce Department program, therefore, is one of the few efforts to channel federal money directly into expanding the telecommunications infrastructure.

The grants "will serve as catalysts for further developing the N.I.I. by providing models for communities throughout the nation to follow," Mr. Brown said.

Improvements in K-12

He noted that the Administration received requests for more $560 million in federal grants under the Commerce Department program. Awards went to 92 projects in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Grantees specifically identified by the department as developing applications for K-12 education include:

  • The Arkansas Educational Television Commission: $200,000;
  • The Foundation for Educational Innovation in Washington: $450,000;
  • Green Valley (Nev.) High School: $40,000;
  • The Hall (Mont.) Elementary School District No. 8: $3,000;
  • The Hueneme (Calif.) School District: $60,000;
  • The Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools: $10,695;
  • The Quillayute Valley (Wash.) School District: $139,163;
  • The Indian River County (Fla.) School District: $185,000;
  • The Siskiyou County (Calif.) Office of Education: $120,000;
  • The St. Joseph (Mo.) School District: $262,250; and
  • The Steuben-Allegany, N.Y., regional educational-service center: $48,000.

To qualify for the federal grants, each of the recipients must raise at least an equal amount from other sources.

Other grants were made to educational institutions, though they were not directly aimed at improving classroom teaching.

The Newark, N.J., school district, for example, received a $106,000 federal grant to support a $147,000 project titled "Making Healthy MUSIC," which is designed to improve health-care services.

MUSIC--which stands for "Multi-User Session in Community"--will place 20 computers in low-income housing units, two computers in the city's Newton Street Elementary School, and two in the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

The computers will allow students and adults to talk to health-care administrators and to other users.

"We're using telecommunications to empower the community," said Angela Caruso, the district's director of computer education and technology.

Awards also were made to the Colorado and New York state education departments and to public libraries in Danbury, Conn.; Newark; Rockbridge, Va.; and San Francisco.

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