A $54.5 million initiative is under way to bring internet, intranet, satellite, and videoconferencing capabilities to every school, university, and library in Washington State by the year 2000.

Governor Gary Locke officially launched the K-12 component of the K-20 Education Telecommunications Network with a press conference on Jan. 28. Upon completion, the project will be one of the most extensive of its kind in the nation.

Demonstrating one of education’s new technologies, Locke and Kenneth J. Minnaert, president of South Puget Sound Community College, used videoconference technology in Olympia to speak with Sam Smith, president of Washington State University, in Spokane.

“These new learning tools—like the one we are using today—will help prepare children and adults for a lifetime of successful learning,” said Locke. “By adding the tools of telecommunications to our education system, we will bring our schools into the age of technology.”

The Washington network, approved by the Legislature in 1996, will be the only educational network known to connect all segments of education—from kindergarten to postsecondary—by using widespread videoconferencing technologies in the curriculum, according to a statement issued by the Governor’s office.