GEORGIA  — The Georgia Department of Education is awarding a total of $270,000 to rural school districts to help them expand the fine arts opportunities available to their students, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced Thursday morning.

Nineteen rural districts are receiving stART grants, which can be used to create or expand arts initiatives that significantly improve students’ access to the arts. The grants are part of GaDOE’s broader Partnership for Rural Growth initiative, which seeks to expand the resources available to public school districts in rural Georgia.

“We know that the fine arts provide significant academic and non-academic benefits for all students,” said Woods. “Arts education helps children develop language and fine-motor skills. It keeps them engaged in their education. It equips them with the creativity, ingenuity, and resilience needed to succeed in the modern workforce. At the Georgia Department of Education we are committed to providing the resources necessary to provide fine arts opportunities to all students.”

Through the stART grants, GaDOE is taking advantage of the flexibility offered within the Every Student Succeeds Act to use some federal funds to support arts learning and other programs that provide a well-rounded education to students. This is the second round of funding provided through the grants; the first round was awarded to twenty school districts in 2018. 

“The GaDOE start grant has had an amazing impact on the visual arts and band programs at our school,” said Alisha Montgomery, an art teacher at Willie J. Williams Middle School in Colquitt County, one of the districts that received a stART grant last year. “Through the funds we received…we were able to have more instruments available for student use and were able to customize the visual arts class, by using laptops and 21st century skills, to individual students’ abilities.”

GaDOE has also worked to expand fine arts instruction by hiring a full-time fine arts specialist at the state level, creating new virtual fine arts courses, refreshing standards, increasing the number of creative-industry-aligned high school arts courses, offering professional learning on arts integration for teachers of all content areas, and developing a new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) certification for school districts and a Fine Arts Diploma Seal for graduates.

All eligible school districts were given the opportunity to apply for the stART grant funding. For the purposes of the grant, a rural school district is any district currently eligible for funding under the federal Rural Education Achievement Program.

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Covington native and proud Valdosta State alumna, Hunter has previously worked with The Covington News and Valdosta Daily Times. She started working for Rockdale/Newton Citizen in June 2018.

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