|William Chandler, a science teacher at White Plains High School, tries out the school's new computerized physics lab. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star|
Last year, some of the students in Amelia White's Spanish class at White Plains High School were from Birmingham's Tarrant High School. Another of White's Spanish classes had students from Monroe County.
Those students weren't commuting each day. They were linked via an Internet video-conferencing system (IVC) as part of the state's ACCESS Distance Learning Program.
ACCESS, which stands for Alabama Connecting Classroom, Educators, and Students Statewide, provides students the opportunity to take advanced placement, foreign language, and other courses not available at their schools. The program grew from an initiative launched in November 2004 to "provide equal access to high quality instruction," throughout the state.
White Plains High was one of the first to become a pilot school for the program.
Lisa Amerson, technology director for Calhoun County Schools, said a $90,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Education paid for the equipment, installation and training at White Plains. The department budgeted $10.3 million statewide the first year and again this past year, and $25.8 million is requested for the program in the 2008 budget.
"The students at the other end can see and hear me, and I can see and hear them," White said.
An adult at the other end monitors behavior and distributes tests.