ACCESS program to be in all schools by 2009

Published 12:55 pm Wednesday, July 9, 2008

MONTGOMERY – All high schools in Alabama will have ACCESS Distance Learning by the time school begins in August 2009, Governor Bob Riley and State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton announced yesterday. That’s one year ahead of schedule.

“No other state in America has videoconferencing and web-based learning in all its high schools. Alabama will,” Riley said at a press conference yesterday. “This is an investment not only in technology, this is an investment in our children.”

ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, and Students Statewide) uses online and interactive video conferencing technology to link classrooms and offer coursework, including Advanced Placement and languages, to students in schools where those courses may not be available. ACCESS allows students from any part of the state to learn in a virtual classroom environment.

Currently, Chilton County, Maplesville and Verbena high schools are already participating in the program.

ACCESS was first announced in Riley’s State of the State Address in 2005. The program first began appearing in schools in 2006 with a goal of having an ACCESS lab in every high school by the 2010-11 school year.

“The completion of ACCESS labs throughout the state means high school students in Alabama will have opportunities not imaginable 10 years ago,” said Dr. Morton. “They are no longer deprived of certain coursework because they happen to live in a rural area or because there are not enough students in a particular school to make up a class.”

Dr. Melinda Maddox, Director of Technology Initiatives with the Alabama Department of Education, said the implementation of ACCESS will be delivered in three waves beginning immediately. Applauded for their initiative, schools that have already started to develop their own virtual learning centers will be given $50,000 each to upgrade and meet ACCESS standards. There are 63 schools in Alabama included in this first wave of statewide ACCESS expansion. In the fall of 2008, the second wave will begin as schools will receive $85,000 to establish ACCESS labs. The third and final wave will begin in the spring of 2009.

In addition to having ACCESS labs, the Alabama Supercomputer Authority, with funding from ACCESS, is providing every high school with a minimum of 10Mb of bandwidth to ensure that, no matter where any Alabama school is located, Internet connectivity will not be a barrier.