Virginia schools get million dollars for Interactive Distance Learning

Company makes third installment on $7 million commitment

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RICHMOND, Va. - For the third straight year, Bell Atlantic will give away close to a million dollars to Virginia public schools and colleges to help jump start interactive distance learning. The company intends to contribute an additional $4 million to this effort over the next four years.

The winners of the 1997 Bell Atlantic-Virginia distance learning grants are:

  • The Commonwealth Governors' School -- $150,000 to help complete a distance learning network that will eventually connect 13 high schools in the counties of Caroline, Fluvanna, Goochland, Louisa, Orange, Spotsylvania, Stafford and King George, and in the city of Fredericksburg.


  • Hampton Roads Consortium for Distance Learning -- $125,000 to help fund 13 new distance learning classrooms at public schools located in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, York County and at Thomas Nelson Community College.


  • Cumberland County Schools -- $75,000 to help fund classrooms in that county, which will be linked to Longwood College and Southside Virginia Community College.


  • Richmond Technical Center -- $120,000 to help fund new sites on the center's existing interactive distance learning network.


  • The Southwest Virginia Education and Training Network (SVETN) -- $130,000 to help add three new sites - one in Buchannan County and two in Wise County. Also, funds will be used to upgrade a site in Lee County and another at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap.


  • The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) -- $230,000 to help extend the existing distance learning network to public elementary and high schools in the VCCS service region. Proposed sites include: J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and Lee-Davis High School in the Richmond area; Blue Ridge Community College and Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton; Northern Virginia Community College and schools in Fairfax County; Danville Community College and George Washington High School in Danville; and Southside Virginia Community College and Cumberland High school.


  • Virginia Tech -- $120,000 to help fund two distance learning campus classrooms and four distance learning sites at graduate centers in Falls Church, Hampton Roads, Leesburg and Alexandria.

Grants were awarded by a panel of eight members representing state government, education, technology and Bell Atlantic.

"Classrooms today need not be defined by a blackboard, four walls and a door," said Hugh Stallard, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic-Virginia.

"The school systems that are building these distance learning systems are finding they can interact in real time with students miles away. I'm proud that Bell Atlantic can be part of this revolution in education," he said.

Bell Atlantic distance learning grants are available to public schools, K-12, and all state-supported colleges and universities in Bell Atlantic-Virginia's service area. The company serves roughly two-thirds of the public schools in the state. The grants may be used for purchase of classroom equipment necessary for interactive distance learning (such as TV monitors, cameras, microphones, etc.).

Distance learning systems are not new to Virginia. Schools can now receive instructional classes over satellite links. Unlike the existing satellite system, however, Bell Atlantic's new distance learning networks are totally interactive, both visually and verbally.

Students and faculty are able to see one another and communicate spontaneously over the network. Teachers have the ability to call on students who raise their hands, much the same as they would in a natural classroom setting.

Stallard suggested that interactive distance learning will help bring about parity among the schools. For example, rural schools that may not be able to offer a comprehensive language arts curriculum may do so at a fraction of the expense through interactive distance learning.

Bell Atlantic launched its first distance learning initiative in 1994 in the southwestern end of the state. The company linked two Lee County high schools with Mountain Empire Community College over a 50-mile fiber optic network. All programming on the network is provided by the schools.

Schools wishing to apply for future Bell Atlantic distance learning funding should write: Manager-Distance Learning Grants, Bell Atlantic, 4th floor, 600 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219.

Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new communications, entertainment and information industry. In the mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing high-growth national and international business opportunities in all phases of the industry.


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