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District learning grant to help 12 school districts in Staples region

USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer has announced that the National Joint Powers Alliance in Staples has been selected to receive a $405,991 grant to install distance learning technology in 12 school districts, a community college and a medical facility in Central Minnesota.

"This type of technology is urgently needed in rural schools and healthcare facilities," Landkamer said. "No matter where you live, you should have access to quality educational opportunities. Rural students deserve the same educational opportunities as metropolitan-area students. These funds make that happen."

Grant funds will be used to install interactive educational technology such as video conferencing that allows school districts to either continue offer curriculum that might otherwise be cut, or allow additional programming to be made available in rural districts that otherwise might not be possible. The National Joint Powers Alliance is an Educational Service Agency serving 23 school districts in a five-county area of Central Minnesota.

"Knowing that this grant is highly competitive in nature, NJPA is honored and thrilled to play a role in bringing this technology to school districts and healthcare in our area of the state," said Todd Lyscio, Executive Director of NJPA. "With tightening budgets and technology needs growing, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to support education in ways we could only dream of without this grant. In addition, this technology will open doors for collaboration between the entities we serve in new and wonderful ways. We appreciate the award and look forward to strengthening the program offerings and professional growth that we feel will come from the technology this grant is designed to support."

Schools impacted by the grant include Browerville, Bertha Hewitt, Pillager, Sebeka, Crosby-Ironton, Staples-Motley, Menagha, Verndale, Eagle Valley, New York Mills, Wadena-Deer Creek and Henning. Central Lakes College and the Lakewood Health System also will be connected to the system.

The grant comes from Rural Development's Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program, which provides funding for expanded educational opportunities and increases access to quality healthcare in rural and remote areas.

The National Joint Powers Alliance grant was one of 100 grants announced on Thursday totaling over $30 million in 34 states. Since 2009, over $5 million DLT grants have been awarded throughout rural Minnesota.

For more information on the DLT program and other USDA Rural Development programs, visit You can also call the Rural Development office in Baxter at (218) 829-5965, ext. 4.

For more information on the National Joint Powers Alliance, go to