PORT HENRY - It's a long way from Port Henry to...just about anywhere.
But that's not a problem for Moriah High School students. They have access to a distance learning program.
"It's a great experience for our kids," Principal Kathy Carr said. "They're exposed to subjects they could never take otherwise. They experience new teachers. They see how other schools operate. I love it."
Thanks to a grant, Moriah has a distance learning lab, complete with television screens, computers and a fax machine. Classes are taught in real time via the internet, allowing for total interaction between a students and students in multiple locations.
"It's kinda fun," Caleb Harvish, a Moriah student, said. "It's easy enough to follow along and understand everything. It's nice to take classes I normally couldn't."
Moriah is part of a 19-school consortium through the Albany BOCES. Schools both "host" - teach - and receive distance classes.
This year Moriah teachers are "hosting" advanced U.S. history, advanced political science, fourth-year Spanish, a science fiction class and SAT prep. History and political science are both college-level courses.
Moriah students are receiving sign language, music appreciation and meteorology.
"The classes are designed for upper-level kids, who don't have discipline problems, who want something more or different than what we can offer," Carr said.
Each year classes change.
Teachers teach as if they were in a traditional classroom and the students in remote buildings watch on large TVs. Cameras in the remote buildings allow students to ask questions and otherwise interact with the teachers and other students.
Homework assignments and tests are turned in via Email and fax.
Each classes is taped, so if a students is absent or needs to review the class is always available.
"The whole purpose of distance learning is to allow schools like Moriah, that are small, rural and limited by budget constraints to offer a variety of classes," Carr explained.
Moriah has two music teachers, Carr explained, who instruct vocal and instrumental students in grades K-12. They don't have time for anything else.
"Last year we had some very serious music students," she said. "We were able to arrange for them to take music appreciation and music theory classes through the distance learning program."
Classes are generally limited to 15-18 students total from all participating schools.
"Our (Moriah) teachers don't like to say no to anyone," Carr said. "It can be hard, but we try to accommodate everybody."
The Albany BOCES pays for the program. There is no cost to local taxpayers, Carr said.
Besides regular classes, the Moriah distance learning lab has been used for a summer middle schools language and math skills course, Regents exam review, five-hour pre-licensing drivers course, and teacher professional development.
Carr hopes to expand the lab's use even further, allowing training classes for local emergency personnel, showing lectures of interest to the public and more.
"Technology is becoming bigger and bigger in education and our lives," Carr said. "It's the way it's going to be; we might as well use it to our advantage."