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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2001

State budget cuts won't stop local chapter of science project

Just weeks after its successful beginning, a project that allowed nearly 1,500 area students to vicariously explore volcanic Hawaii may be caught in the state budget tussle.

“It's not a reflection of the quality of the program,” said Paul Marshall, director of government relations for the Ohio Department of Education. “But the [state board of education] feels it should resist specific set-asides.”

The local coordinator of the Jason Project, which allows students to explore the world with real scientists via satellite hook-up, said she's not worried.

“Toledo really isn't going to be affected,” said Betsy Fried, who is in charge of the project for the Toledo-Lucas County Libraries. “We were going to get [private] sponsors anyway.”

Jason, a project named after the mythological hero who led a band of Argonauts to capture the fleece of a golden ram, was established by the man who found the Titanic. Dr. Robert Ballard leads the Jason scientific expeditions while he speaks to students from the field through an Internet link. He instituted the project after receiving countless letters from school children inquiring about his work.

The Toledo libary hooked into the system this year as a noninteractive site and plans to spend $68,000 to become a fully interactive site this next school year. That would give the library a license to serve up to 15,000 students as Jason scientists turn their attention to geysers, glaciers, mud pots, and other volcanic spots in Iceland and Yellowstone.

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