Schools are keeping
pace with todayís cyber
Express Staff Writer
If we can
shop, make travel plans, and chat online, why canít high school students
actually take classes? Well, now in Idaho and several other states in the
country, they can.
Thanks to a
last minute lobbying effort by former Blaine County School District
Superintendent Phil Homer, a bill was presented to the Idaho Legislature
in January expanding the charter school statute to allow creation of an
Idaho Virtual High School.
was sponsored by the Idaho Superintendents Association. The school
received its charter from the Mountain Home School Board of Trustees.
benefits of distance learning and online instruction are many, said Larry
Slade, principal of the Idaho Virtual High School based in Mountain Home.
He is also the principal of the Richard McKenna Alternative School in
course time, students can proceed at their own pace, listening to lectures
twice if need be, and taking time to absorb the lesson without fear of
peer pressure. In virtual schools, there are no bullies, princesses, surly
teachers or bells. Students can also repeat failed classes. In fact, of
the 110 students already signed-up to begin work this June, 90 percent are
doing credit recovery, Slade said. Several students from the Midvale
school are taking classes online just "to get ahead."
classroom lets students in the many small, rural school districts reach
outside their community by taking specialized courses that would
ordinarily not be available to them. It also provides extra instruction
for home schooled students, in topics such as technology and languages.
alternative school student, Carissa Atwood, 17, from Mountain Home, has
signed up for classes through IDVHS. She said her school doesnít offer
science or math credits. "I figured I could take them online, get the
credit and graduate on time."
students can finish their high school career while holding down a job and
academically advanced students have the luxury of completing degrees more
education can also aid students who may be hampered with health problems
that force them to miss school, dropouts who would like to re-enter
mainstream school, expelled students and young single parents.
with the Idaho State Standards, the IDVHS is publicly funded. Any Idaho
student under 21 may enroll at no charge in IDVHS courses. Students over
21 and out-of-state students must pay tuition to take the classes.
Up to five
classes may be taken at a time. The maximum amount of time allowed for a
semester course is 18 weeks in order to receive credit, though in the
future Slade hopes that students can enroll at anytime and work at their
own pace. For now, there are two sessions: a nine-week summer session,
which begins June 1 and an 18-week fall/winter session, which begins in
are completed offline and submitted to the certified teachers who act as
Web tutors via email. Slade said he has recruited tutors, located
throughout the state, who are trained in online education. "Behind
every course, there is a Web tutor who contacts the students weekly by
phone and e-mail. We want to connect kids with good teachers."
anyone in Sun Valley wants a job, we are looking for teachers," Slade
laughed. "If you have an Internet connection, you can live in a cabin
and teach these kids."
exam, which is monitored by an educator, or a librarian whose credentials
are checked out by the IDVHS, must be completed to receive course credit.
The monitor, who is given a password by IDVHS, sends the exam on to the
Web tutor, who then scores the exam.
has applied for accreditation as a Distance Education School from the
Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. For more information go to
their Web site at idvhs.org or call (208) 580-2449.