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Free-range education

OKC schools are set to offer online-only curriculum this fall.

Susannah Waite July 10th, 2012

Students will soon have more options outside the classroom as the Oklahoma City Public Schools launch virtual school.

Credit: Brad Gregg

Beginning this fall, students kindergarten through 12th grade will have the opportunity to take a class or two online, or never enter a school building at all.

Sheli McAdoo, out-going executive director of the district’s secondary education and reform, said she is optimistic about the future of the new program.

“We’ll use it to tailor to the needs of the students,” she said.

The virtual school can be useful in a host of ways, according to district officials. Students can use it to catch up on credits if they’ve fallen behind. Students transferring from out of state might use online courses to fulfill credit requirements; others could use the courses for enrichment purposes.

Monitoring progress

“We’re going to be very conscientious and look at each student individually to determine if that virtual environment is going to meet their needs,” McAdoo said.

As McAdoo recently has left the district to become assistant superintendent at Yukon Public Schools, the Innovations K-12 Virtual Institute will be supervised by acting director Verna Martin.

The online curriculum, provided by Pearson Connections, allows students to participate in clubs to help foster social interaction, especially for those who are receiving all their schooling online.

“Even though I don’t think it takes the place of the student actually being on campus and being able to interact face to face, it does make a move toward being able to help students outside of academics be able to interact with their peers,” McAdoo said.

She said Pearson Connections boasts a strong elementary curriculum, but that alone will not keep younger virtual students on track.

“It will take a lot of parent involvement, for all our kids, but particularly for those young kids to be able to learn appropriately and be successful,” she said.

“It’s not going to be a case that the parent can just take the student and sit them down at a computer and they’re going to be educated.”

Sheli McAdoo

Students in the virtual school will also require quite a bit of supervision by school officials.

“A big part of the process will be monitoring students to make sure they’re getting the benchmarks, in terms of completing the curriculum in a timely manner,” McAdoo said.

Academic accommodations

Student athletes will not be allowed to be 100 percent virtual and will also require additional monitoring.

“We have to pay close attention to how the virtual courses interact with the regular school courses to make sure we keep them on track with NCAA guidelines,” she said.

While the program will necessitate careful monitoring of all its students, McAdoo sees many benefits for students.

“There is the flexibility of being able to enroll in courses and work at their own pace, or it allows them to take a course they may not have access to in their school because there aren’t enough students interested,” she said.

“It also meets the needs of students who have some extenuating circumstance and gives them an alternative to dropping out of school or falling behind in coursework.”

All virtual students are required to meet all state testing requirements.

Innovations K-12 Virtual Institute is a byproduct of state law requiring that school districts make online courses available.

A number of students already have enrolled in the program.

Parents interested in applying for online education for their students may contact OKCPS Office of Secondary Education at 587-0010.

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