Grant Helps Libby Schools Update Technology

By Beacon Staff

Students in Libby are enjoying the results of a $300,000 federal grant awarded to School District 4 this winter. The Striving Readers program provided $7.6 million to Montana public schools, and institutions in Browning, Kalispell and Libby have all benefitted from the grant, funding advancement in literacy, reading and writing skills.

Libby Superintendent K.W. Maki said in an era of declining enrollment and shrinking budgets, the grant was a welcome addition to the school’s coffers.

“That’s a lot of money, especially when you don’t have any,” Maki said.

Recently, the school district installed wireless internet at a cost of about $14,000. The grant has also enabled the schools to install new smart boards and buy three mobile iPad labs, with 25 to 30 tablets each. Maki said the new technology helps students learn at their own pace and helps teachers focus on their daily lessons.

Maki said this year’s grant of $306,310 would likely be renewed next year, however the investment in new equipment will continue to benefit students in the future, even after the money is gone. He said students are enjoying the new technology.

“Kids need to be in tune with technology,” he said. “(But) you’d be surprised, we have little kids who know more about the technology than I do.”

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said in a press release that the competitive grant was only awarded to six states for the 2011-2012 school year. According to Juneau, 28 school districts and eight pre-school and Head State programs applied for the funds in Montana. In the end, 10 school districts were selected to receive literacy improvement grants.

“Reading and writing are vital skills every child must have for their future academic and economic success,” she said. “This grant will allow Montana to build on successful programs and seek out innovative strategies to improve literacy for children of all ages.”

Along with schools in Libby, the state awarded the Browning Public School system $399,414 and Kalispell Public Schools $140,639. According to the Montana Department of Public Instruction, more than 10,000 students will benefit from the federal money.