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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Online education choices increase

At the February board meeting, the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education approved a full-time administrator to develop and operate the district’s online academy.Kim McClelland, administrator on special assignment, is returning to D 49 after a seven-year absence. During that time, McClelland said she worked as an online teacher for Colorado Virtual Academy and then as an administrator and curriculum development specialist.McClelland said online education allows families the opportunity to choose a customized approach to learning. She said the range of online students varies from at-risk children to gifted children. “Students are able to work at their own pace and individualize their learning,” McClelland said.Mary Guinn, assistant superintendent, said the district is developing an online academy in response to community requests. The district will hold meet and greets and conduct online surveys to tap the community’s needs as they develop the program, Guinn said.”We’re looking at the possibility of a blended program, where students may come in to an onsite location and interface with the online teacher,” Guinn. “We want to develop both the online school and also have some social activities for students who are enrolled in the program.”Guinn said the district is fortunate to have McClelland on board because she understands D 49 and has a strong online education background. “(McClelland) brings energy to the job, and we are excited about the next few months and hitting the ground running,” Guinn said.She said she expects the program will be available in the fall of 2010.The district will model its program from those already in place. “We will be investigating online curriculum that has already been developed, and we have research on that (showing the) completion rates of students,” Guinn said.McClelland said the curriculum will meet or exceed standards set by D 49.The online academy will operate as a public school, with the district receiving state funding for full-time students, Guinn said. Fees will be assessed to students taking courses part time online to supplement their classes, but that structure has not been set, she said.When D 49 opens its online academy, it will be competing with 18 programs in Colorado offering online education outside set district boundaries.Insight School of Colorado is one of those programs. Chartered through the Julesburg School District No. RE1, the program offers online education for grades 9 to 12, said Denise Perrault, ISCO executive director.”Our program attracts all kinds of students. There are as many reasons for enrolling online as there are students,” Perrault said. Some are looking for greater flexibility in setting their own learning pace; others are looking for alternatives to a traditional school setting, she said.ISCO opened enrollment in the fall of 2008 and now educates about 800 students, she said. There are also Insight Schools in nine other states, including Washington, California, Idaho and Oregon.Perrault said ISCO offers 110 courses aligned with Colorado state standards. The variety include remediation and credit recovery classes, a wide range of electives, Advanced Placement and honors courses.Perrault said ISCO is AP accredited and students enrolled in AP classes can take the exam at the end of the year – the same as students enrolled in a traditional brick and mortar school.”We equip our students with everything they need to succeed,” Perrault said. From highly qualified teaching staff, course work materials and a personal laptop, Perrault said everything is provided free of charge. “We operate as a public school,” she said.Academic help is available through online tutoring and interaction with the online teachers, Perrault said.One of the biggest challenges facing online education programs is filling the need for social interaction. Perrault said ISCO brings students together for clubs, social events and physical education credit that can be gained through participation in sports at the students’ local school district or on their own.

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