New London Local SchoolsNew London Schools was awarded The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (RUS-DLT) grant administered by the US Department of Agriculture
About New London Local Schools
New London Local Schools is a rural school district located 30 miles southwest of Cleveland, Ohio, serving approximately 825 students.
As the superintendent, Brad Romano has led New London Local Schools’ digital transformation with a progressive vision. His ten-year plan to add technology to two or three classrooms per year was dramatically accelerated in 2020 with a federal grant award of $1,000,000.
Fostered though a strategic partnership with Solutionz, Inc., New London Schools was awarded The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (RUS-DLT) grant administered by the US Department of Agriculture. Solutionz guided Brad and his team through the grant process, the selection and installation of game-changing technologies, digital content training for teachers, the setup of a telemedicine program and a customized maintenance plan for their AV and UC systems.
USDA enhances healthcare for students with funding for telemedicine initiatives to connects students with remote medical services. Brad explains, “We have relationships with a couple local hospitals. Our nurse is associated with UH Samaritan Medical Center, so that's really going to be the springboard to the telemedicine piece. Whether it's a local urgent care herein town or the Regional Medical Center in Ashland, OH, we can connect our students with medical professionals.” Like many rural communities, New London has a poverty rate well above the state average, making access to healthcare is not only a geographic challenge but an economic one as well.
Brad continues, “One of our partners is the Huron County Mental Health and Addiction Services Board because they also see the value in telemedicine. If we would have said telemedicine for mental health two years ago, people would have looked at us a little funny and there was a number of state and federal statutes that made telemedicine difficult. For mental health, a lot of those barriers have been removed and people are looking a little more progressively as to how telemedicine can fit into behavioral health and mental health, so we're optimistic that we're going to have a big reach. Our plans are still in the conceptual phase, but all parties agree that the potential is there.” Access to affordable mental health and substance abuse care is a national challenge. The power of telemedicine technology is bridging the gap and saving lives in rural areas and beyond.
Part of the requirements for the RUS DLT grant award are strategic partnerships in coordination with distance learning and telemedicine. New London Schools already had
established relationships with Lorain County Community College and Norwalk Catholic Schools as partners for STEM education.
Brad explains, “With Lorain County Community College, we had an existing relationship through our College Credit Plus program, and so we've really built out our offerings with them. The distance learning technology can only strengthen the course offerings and the support to students.”
Distance learning technologies has the potential to allow students at Saint Paul's, a small Parochial school, to select AP calculus classes at New London Schools, where multiple units of AP calculus are offered, or attend higher level physics classes, accessing educational opportunities not easily offered in smaller schools.
The third partner is Northwestern Local Schools (NWLS) in Wayne County, one of the few districts in the state that have a STEM designation for their preschool, elementary school, and their high school. Brad tells, “They are all STEM designated, and that's a goal of ours, to receive STEM designation. This is an opportunity for us to learn from them and for our students and their students to collaborate. We are part of an established network of rural schools in our region that work together virtually. We are in year four of partnering with NWLS and a few other districts in our region as part of the Rural STEM collaborative with High Schools That Work and the Army Educational Outreach Program.” Leveraging partnerships with other educational institutions, distance learning technologies exponentially grow dynamic educational opportunities for students throughout the region, broadening the grant’s impact far beyond New London Schools.
As part of the RUS DLT three-year implementation and support plan, Solution’s Prime Call Adoption and Digital Training Services (ADTS) customized training programs for teachers to learn the new technologies and how to create and deliver lesson plans. Brad shares, “We started last spring working with the Solutionz ADTS team developing some on-demand lessons for our teachers to become familiar with the technology. The fact that the ViewSonic platform is a web based platform was really appealing to me as a district leader because I knew, especially in the midst of a pandemic, giving teachers the flexibility to work anywhere, at any time, and with any
machine is very advantageous.”
Even before the interactive technology is installed in every classroom, training is focused on how to implement lesson plans and create content. Teachers are grouped in grade level bands to meet the different needs, for example, a kindergarten and first grade band and a third and fourth grade band. A great deal of excitement was generated once teachers were shown different ways to implement the interactive capabilities to engage students. Brad tells, “It was almost instantaneous. With the teachers and their creativity, the wheels were spinning about how the technology can be used in the classroom. The trainer’s knowledge base is incredible as well as her ability to connect with our teachers.” In addition to ongoing training sessions, ADTS will onboard new teachers, address individual questions, and devise solutions for unique challenges. For example, as the need for more remote capabilities arose, ADTS pivoted the training plan to accelerate teaching advanced content builds in the ViewSonic platform and the use of Poly videoconferencing systems.
Brad explains how the new technologies have offered flexibility to accommodate remote work needs, “Using Zoom, the Poly cameras and microphones, the ViewSonic boards, we can place a substitute teacher in the room for classroom management, not for direct instruction, so the teacher is still able to provide direct instructions and interactivity with their students from the comfort of their home. Dealing with the pandemic, we are able do that across the board in different ways because of the teleconferencing equipment that we have in our classrooms.” The Poly videoconferencing system allows teachers to keep students’ attention with a high-quality audio and video presence.