La Grande and Elgin school district officials are beginning the new year with a new deadline hanging overhead - the type of deadline educators dream of having.

The Oregon Department of Education announced Monday that the La Grande and Elgin school districts have

received a combined $757,852 in Career Technical Education Revitalization grants from the Oregon Department of Education for their high school agriculture and vocational technical programs. The school districts have 18 months to complete grant-funded projects,

according to La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze.

The La Grande School District will receive a grant of $379,852, and the Elgin School District will be given $378,000.

La Grande High School

Assistant Principal Scott Carpenter said he was ecstatic upon learning that the

La Grande School District was a grant recipient.

"It was an emotional moment," Carpenter said.

Dianne Greif, superintendent of the Elgin School District, noted one Elgin High School teacher, when told of the grant award, was almost moved to tears.

The grants La Grande and Elgin have been awarded are among a total of $9 million in CTE Revitalization grants the Oregon Department of Education is providing statewide. La Grande and Elgin competed with more than 70 school districts for the grants, according to an InterMountain Education Service District news release.

The La Grande School District will use a portion of the money it will receive for its biomedical program. Students in the program are developing skills needed to help them become certified medical assistants. Certified medical assistants work in physicians' offices, clinics and other health care facilities. Certified medical assistants may work in a clerical, administrative or clinical capacity.

"Medical assistants are in high demand," said LHS Principal Brett Baxter.

Medical simulation technology is among the health education items that will be purchased with the CTE grant funding La Grande will receive. These will include high-tech mannequins that will be used by students learning how to insert IVs, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and diagnose illnesses and much more.

CTE grant funding will also be used to support and upgrade LHS's mechatronics program, in which students study mechanics and electronics. New welding equipment and booths will be purchased as part of this effort.

"Students will have tools that meet industrial standards," said Principal Baxter.

Much of this new equipment will be placed in a welding lab and mechatronics center that will be built with money from the $31.85 million bond school district voters approved in 2014.

Baxter said he is elated that the new construction will be filled with state-of-the art equipment, thanks to the CTE grant.

"Otherwise we would be moving old equipment into the new building," he said.

The CTE grant will also fund the addition of a third greenhouse at LHS, which will be used for projects such as growing seedlings to replace trees lost to forest fires. LHS will be working closely with the Oregon Department of Forestry and The Plantworks nursery of Cove on the project.

Community partners LHS will have for its CTE programs will also include Grande Ronde Hospital, the Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center, Cross L Welding and Fabrication, Barreto Manufacturing, Eastern Oregon University, the City of La Grande and Union County.

Carpenter said the support showed by these partners, none of whom will be paid, probably helped the school district land its CTE grant. He explained that state officials evaluating grant applications are impressed when community support for grant-funded programs is shown.

The Elgin School District will be using the bulk of its $378,000 grant for the construction of a new high school agricultural sciences classroom and for the purchase of new equipment for its welding and small engine repair programs.

"We will be able to expand these programs," Greif said.

She said these are the type of programs that will better prepare students for jobs in the workplace or to enter a community college or technical training program with advanced skills.