When Adina Stone greets her students in their Latin I class at Bob Jones High School, her salve (greetings) is heard across the state - or at least in Sheffield and Mobile.
Stone, a Latin teacher in Sheffield, is teaching Latin simultaneously in two other towns through a new program called Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide. The ACCESS program uses videoconference and Internet technology to connect classrooms hundreds of miles apart.
For Bob Jones, ACCESS is the only way for students to take Latin. Even though more than 60 students expressed interest in the class, finding someone certified to teach the ancient language these days is difficult, said Mary Long, the director for instruction for Madison City Schools.
Gov. Bob Riley visited Bob Jones recently to see the program in action. He designated $10 million in the state budget to start 24 pilot sites in high schools across the state. Bob Jones received $100,000 of that to set up its system to receive the Latin class from Sheffield and to send an advanced placement chemistry class to Southside High School in Etowah County and a physics class to Cleburne County High School in Heflin.
Stone also teaches the Latin class to students at Alma Bryant High School near Mobile.
At Bob Jones, the ACCESS program links to a Toyota Distance Learning Lab that's been in operation since the 2002-03 school year. That project links Huntsville, Madison County and Madison city students with classes taught in one school broadcast to a school in another system. The Schools Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports all three public school systems in the county, helped get that program under way here.
To get the ACCESS program started at Bob Jones, Stone visited the school and met the 14 students taking Latin I. Another seven come to school either before or after regular school hours to work on their own, doing lessons on a computer and e-mailing Stone regularly with questions and for tests.
During his visit, Riley sat in the distance learning lab at Bob Jones and chatted with Stone and her students in Sheffield and the students in Mobile.
"This is the kind of technology we're going to depend on to give kids the opportunity to take what they want to take," he said. "Once all the students and teachers get used to it, it's not as strange as it might seem."
Bob Jones senior Kaitlin Manning is sold so far on the ACCESS way of taking classes. She wants to go to pharmacy school and wanted to take Latin to get ready for all the drug names she'll have to learn.
She's adjusted to not having her Latin teacher standing in front of her because she can raise her hand and Stone will still see her. She can also hop on the Web using the laptop she has in the lab to do research.
"We're able to expand the curriculum," beyond the Latin I textbooks on their desks, Kaitlin said.
Prisca Cleveland, a Bob Jones junior, is also committed to the ACCESS program because it allows her to take Latin at the only time she could fit it in. She arrives at Bob Jones at 6:30 a.m. to work through modules on a computer and listen to audio lessons on pronunciation.
Another three students come in the afternoon, and a Bob Jones teacher is in the room as the students work on their own, sending e-mails to Stone.
Riley said the participating schools are just the test sites for a program he wants to expand statewide.
"If you want to see what the future is going to be like," he said, "you saw it today."