SILOAM SPRINGS – Enrollment at the school district’s new online academy has declined by about a third since the new school launched in August.
Deputy Superintendent Amy Carter presented a report on the online academy to school board members on Thursday. The academy was expected to have around 150 students from kindergarten to grade 12, but more than 600 registered to participate before school started in August.
Enrollment had fallen to around 415 students as of Thursday, Carter said. About 18 kindergarten students are enrolled in the academy, and every other school building in the district has between 60 and 70 students online, with the exception of the high school, which has about 122 students, she said.
“Every day our numbers change, someone decides to come back or something like that through the buildings, so it’s very fluid but we stay stable,” she said.
The online school uses private company programs taught by local teachers. The academy has been in the works for some time as an additional way to serve students, but preparations accelerated when the coronavirus hit and the school closed for in-person instruction in March, Carter said in August. The program is designed to be maintained for several years, she said.
The academy faced a few hiccups and challenges during the first semester, Carter said. Over the past week and a half, administrators have met with teachers and staff to find out which areas the academy is doing well and which areas need work, she said.
From anecdotal information gathered from teachers, administrators have heard there has been more communication with parents than ever before, Carter said. However, there were also some issues with the software platforms used by the school, although these calmed down as people learned how to work around the issues, she said. . The teachers suggested that the school use its own curriculum across the academy and that students and parents have more responsibility, she said.
Adrienne Schlake, director of the academy, and Valerie King, director of tutoring, have set up a survey for parents and academy students who will be excluded in the coming weeks to gather feedback on their points of view, Carter said.
In addition to the academy, many traditional students are turning to distance education with Northside Elementary and the middle school closed for in-person instruction and other quarantined students, Carter said. Wiggins invited a group of 30 teachers from all grade levels to provide feedback on what the district is doing well and areas that need improvement, she said.
At first, teachers expressed apprehension about many of the new technological tools in education, but now they say they love the tools and couldn’t do distance learning without it. them, Carter said.
However, they said there had been difficulties getting the academy’s 200 students back to the mainstream school, she said. Teachers would like to know in advance what standards have been taught to new students before they return to class, she said.
Teaching distance learners who are in quarantine has also created problems, Carter said. Some students are doing very well, going online and jumping straight into lessons, while others lack parental support or have difficulty connecting to the internet, she said. It is especially common for students to have their parents’ support only in the evenings after work, she said.
Carter said she has attended regional and national Zoom meetings to discuss the issue of engaging distance learners.
“It’s everywhere, so it helps me to know it’s not just us, but no one really has the solution to involving these distance learners,” she said. “It’s something that has been a struggle and we are continually working to attract these children and involve them.”