The Baltimore public school system was to be awarded today an $8 million federal technology grant to create a computer network to allow parents and students to use the Internet, view school lesson plans and receive interactive cable television.
The grant, one of 19 Challenge Grants for Technology to school systems nationwide, was to be announced by Vice President Al Gore at the White House.
More than 500 school systems nationally competed for the grants.
Baltimore will use its grant -- $624,712 in the first of five years -- to create the Baltimore Learning Communities project, which will use distance learning, interactive cable television and the Internet to connect schools to homes, workplaces and the community.
"We really are elated and excited about it," school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said yesterday.
Dr. Amprey said the grant recognizes that the use of computers in education is not a frill or luxury. "It's something that is absolutely crucial and necessary," he said.
Until now, the school system's administrative office has had a computer system that is separate from the network used in instructional programs, Dr. Amprey said.
The learning communities project, which is scheduled to go on line in January, involves a partnership between the school system's office of technology, the Johns Hopkins University and the Discovery Network.
Two initial projects during the first six months of the grant will focus on six to eight middle and high schools, said Michael Pitroff, the school system's coordinator of instructional technology, library and media services.
Mr. Pitroff said the Discovery Learning Channel will provide more than 100 hours of video clips that will be digitized and downloaded. Those video clips will initially be made available to middle school students.
At the high school level, school officials are developing a curriculum with Hopkins that will teach students the skills
necessary to succeed in the world of work, Mr. Pitroff said.
He said the computer network will eventually be expanded to allow access to the Internet, as well as making available various instructional programs and professional development for teachers.
The U.S. Department of Education said the challenge grants will average $1 million a year for five years. The winners of grants are expected to create a consortium of schools, businesses, libraries, museums and community organizations that will provide equipment, software development, technical support, telecommunications and other services.
The funding for the grants announced today was included in the 1995 fiscal year budget.
The Clinton administration is seeking congressional support for full funding of the five-year grants, which are expected to total more than $85 million.