PREMONT, Texas — Several local school districts have been benefiting big time from a federal grant designed to help rural areas fund innovative programs they otherwise would not be able to afford.
School districts in Premont, Brooks County and Freer are part of the Rural Schools Innovation Zone. It's designed to allow for such programs as engineering, welding and medical programs to be offered at those schools.
The state has put $7M into the program, which began in the fall of last year. Everything was going well until the pandemic closed down schools. Premont ISD Superintendent Steve Vanmatre is excited to see the program start up again for the new school year.
"I have a Premont kid that's able to go to the Medical Academy in Freer, but they are still Premont kids or they can go to ROTC in Falfurrias, still Premont kids," Vanmatre said. "They can go learn a building trade in Falfurrias and then in Premont, we offer engineering and STEM."
Superintendent Vanmatre says without RSZI, the district wouldn't have been able to start up engineering classes and steal away one of CCISD's best teachers.
"This is what we do with the funding, we buy top-notch equipment, we recruit the best of the best and I'll give you an example of that the teacher of the year for Corpus Christi ISD now teaches Premont," Vanmatre added. "He teaches engineering to Premont, Freer and Falfurrias kids. Without this grant, we couldn't have recruited Jaime Treviño to come to Premont to teach."
Vanmatre adds that funding for the RSZI runs out at the end of the 2021 school year. He hopes that the state will continue to help out, but if not, the $7M was enough of a running start for Premont ISD to continue offering those programs well into the future.
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