Improving Rural School Districts

Two East Ohio school districts are partners in a grant-funded project that should provide new opportunities to thousands of students.

As part of the state’s $250 million Straight A Fund program, 24 education grants were announced earlier this year. The largest single award, nearly $15 million, went to a consortium of public school districts and institutions of higher education.

Both the Barnesville Local and Switzerland of Ohio Local districts are among partners in the consortium, which includes school systems serving a total of about 48,000 students.

State officials awarded the grant to the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Personalized Learning Network, which has lofty goals. According to its application, the project will use the money “to accelerate student achievement by increasing access to advanced learning and effective instruction …” The initiative targets students in grades 6-12. According to state enrollment figures, that will benefit 594 students in the Barnesville district and 1,391 in the Switzerland of Ohio system.

In concrete terms, what the education jargon of the grant application amounts to is providing more opportunities for students in the partnership. One important part of the initiative is to give the young people more access to college credits they can earn while in high school.

That could result in more local students going to – and succeeding in – higher education, either at colleges and universities or institutions offering career training.

Officials of the Barnesville and Switzerland of Ohio districts are to be commended for joining the consortium. No doubt that will mean more work for public school administrators, but it appears their efforts will pay off for students.

Officials in other East Ohio school districts should pay close attention to both the progress made and the challenges encountered in the grant program. It is not a closed system; part of the grant application stresses making the program a sustainable one and attracting other rural school districts to it.

If the project works as anticipated – and there is no reason to believe it will not – other East Ohio school systems should join it.