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Three more schools to install ACCESS labs

By Staff
Kim West
All six high schools in Franklin County are expected to be fully equipped with ACCESS distance learning classrooms by early next year, according to education officials.
Russellville High School, Belgreen High School and Vina High School have already received the Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide labs, which are each funded by $85,000 grants from the state.
Tharptown High School, Phil Campbell High School and Red Bay High School are expected to have their ACCESS labs in operation at the beginning of the spring 2009 semester.
"We're hoping to have the labs up and running when school starts in January," said Gary Williams, assistant superintendent for Franklin County schools.
Schools with ACCESS can offer a wider range of foreign language classes and advanced courses in math, English, social studies and science.
"We only have one Spanish teacher in this system so we have already been using distance learning for the past few years in the county," Williams said. "With ACCESS, there might be a teacher in Mobile teaching Mandarin Chinese with one student taking the class at Belgreen, along with 29 other students in schools across the state.
"This program is nothing but good in a small system where you can't have a teacher for every subject in every school. This allows students to take the courses they need."
The ACCESS catalog includes calculus, genetics, Bible as Literature, creative writing and several advanced placement courses, which can be taken for college credit.
Williams said the program offers advanced and remediation classes with two modes of learning.
"Classes range from remediation to advanced courses, although students mostly use this for advanced courses," Williams said. "Classes are offered as either interactive-based or web-based. With the IBC, students can see the teacher on the screen, while web-based is through computer instruction."
Each ACCESS classroom is staffed by a facilitator and equipped with computers, laptops, whiteboard, camera, projector, printer, scanner, copier, DVD/VCR, headphones, microphones and a router.
"I don't think we will need to hire more staff as of now because the classrooms can be staffed by a teacher's aide or certified teacher," Williams said. "If necessary, we can ask teachers to volunteer their preparation time, and they can be paid at an hourly rate.
"We're really excited about having labs in every school, and it's going to be great for our school system."
Currently 181 schools in Alabama have ACCESS labs, which were introduced three years ago. All 371 high schools will be equipped by fall 2009, according to Gov. Bob Riley.
"Students in our rural communities are just as bright and just as capable as any others. They deserve as much opportunity as other children in this state," Riley said. "With ACCESS, every high school will be able to provide more learning opportunities than ever before. Alabama will be the first state in the nation to have online learning and video conferencing in every high school."

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