SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Reginald Speight participated in an announcement ceremony for Johnston County Schools on Thursday.

Rural Development is investing $1.3 million in grants to Johnston County Schools.

“Rural Development is proud of our ongoing relationship with Johnston County and the surrounding school districts,” said Rural Development State Director Reginald Speight. “USDA is steadfast to the continued success of Johnston County Schools with almost $2 million in distance learning telemedicine grants invested here since 2019.”

The school system will use $982,000 to purchase telecommunications equipment to implement instructor professional development; helping educators respond more effectively to students and families in crisis, as well as provide a means for students to attend virtual support, counseling, and therapy sessions.

The project will benefit an estimated 14,000 students in the Johnston and Tyrell County Public Schools.

Johnston County Schools will use $382,000 to purchase telehealth video equipment to convert nursing stations into an on-site testing locations at Selma Elementary and Middle School in Selma, and Benson Elementary and Middle School in Benson.

The project includes staffing a full-time nurse to administer vaccinations, and space to quarantine if needed. The equipment will aid in stopping the transmission of COVID-19.

Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas.