LONE ROCK - A federal grant could add nearly $1 million over three years to help improve literacy education at Lone Rock School.
The school district learned last week that it was one of 21 districts in the state selected to receive $15 million in grants for the Montana Striving Reader's Project, a program aimed at improving literacy achievement.
At Lone Rock, the $314,998 annual grant will be used to purchase a new reading curriculum, upgrade technology and pay for continuing education for teachers and paraeducators.
The grant is renewable for three years, although administrators have been told due to the uncertainties of federal funding, the monies are only ensured for two years.
Lone Rock School principal Tamara Lysons said the district completed a 45-page narrative for the grant application that outlined the district's needs and potential plans for the funding.
The district's current reading curriculum was something the community had identified as a weakness during community town hall meetings last year.
The curriculum was about 10 years old and missing some components, Lysons said. Schools typically start considering replacing a curriculum after five to seven years.
While reading hasn't changed over the years, Lysons said the innovations of reading instruction have been improved, especially for students who struggle.
Lone Rock Title One director Eve White helped write the grant.
Smart boards, e-readers and other software that can provide immediate feedback to young readers can make a major difference in literacy education, especially for struggling readers, White said.
New research released just in the last few months shows there is no difference in reading comprehension for students using e-readers instead of traditional paper textbooks.
"Comprehension is the same, if not higher," White said. "Interest is the same, if not higher. That's something that educators have been worried about in the past."
Lysons said the grant will allow the school district to purchase additional smart boards, digital projectors, iPads, Kindles and two new mobile laptop centers with 50 new laptops.
"Everyone here is very excited about this grant," Lysons said.
School board trustee Dan Metully's wife baked a couple of cakes to help folks celebrate at last week's regular board meeting where the grant was announced.
"I was flipping floored to learn the grant was good for three years and close to $1 million," Metully said. "That's absolutely a lot of dough that's going to take some pressure off the rest of the budget."
Lysons said the community's support played a key role in helping the district successfully obtain the grant monies.
The grant application began with the school's mission that outlines that partnership that empowers students with the knowledge they need to become respectful, contributing citizens, Lysons said.
The ability to read is a vital component in making that happen.
"We're committed to the literacy of all of our students," Lysons said. "We all work very hard to ensure that happens and now we will have even better tools to help us."
Reach reporter Perry Backus at 363-3300 or email@example.com.