SILOAM SPRINGS — At least 530 students will return to school online this fall through the Siloam Springs School District’s new online academy.
According to Amy Carter, vice superintendent, classes for K-12 students at the online academy will use the private business curriculum taught by local teachers. Students will be able to learn at home while enjoying the benefits of public school, such as extracurricular activities, fine arts, transcripts, diplomas and graduation, Superintendent Jody Wiggins wrote in a letter to parents in June.
The online academy has been in the works for some time to serve students, but preparations accelerated when the coronavirus hit and the school closed for in-person instruction in March, Carter said. Circumstances made setting up a program that could be sustained for several years and serve students of the best possible ability a higher priority, she said.
The Siloam Springs online academy is a long-term vision for the district rather than something created in reaction to the current environment, according to Adrienne Schlake, who was hired earlier this summer to serve as director of the ‘academy. Schlake, Carter, and the gifted and talented Director of Academic Support and Programs Valerie King worked to make the academy a reality.
Initially, the district placed a cap of 150 students at the academy, but there was so much interest after a series of parent meetings in June that administrators decided to open up enrollment to more students, a Carter said. Now it has grown to almost the same size as the elementary schools in the district. In addition to the 530 confirmed students, principals are working to contact students who have registered but have not confirmed their status and there is also a waiting list, she said.
Students enrolled in the program will need to be self-directed, motivated learners with strong parental support, according to the draft program guide posted on the district’s website. They will also need to be computer literate, know how to manage their time, be effective communicators and be personally engaged, he says. Each student will receive a Google Chromebook, but their family will be responsible for providing an internet connection, he says.
The district has contracted with Pearson to provide a curriculum for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, which will be delivered by Siloam Springs teachers. Currently, one teacher per grade level has been assigned to teach students online, Carter said.
The school has contracted with Summit Learning for seventh through 12th graders, and Siloam Springs teachers in a variety of areas of expertise will deliver the program, she said. Online academy teachers at the middle and high school level will teach both online and in-person students, with about three periods per day dedicated to online students, she said.
Students will have goals with their online curriculum that they will work towards at their own pace and there will be times when they will work synchronously or asynchronously with other students and teachers, Carter said. Attendance will be tied to achieving weekly goals, the program guide says.
Students will be able to access all of the services offered by Siloam Springs Schools in physical schools, including special education, gifted and talented services and English language learning, Carter said. Students in grades seven through senior will be allowed onsite to participate in AAA-sanctioned activities such as music, choir and athletics, as well as career and technical classes, she said. declared. Students will have the option of taking advanced placement courses in person or through the state’s online education platform, she said.
Students will also be able to access take-out meals through the school district, Carter said.
Carter said the district intends for the academy to have a presence in the school district for years to come.
“We are excited about the new challenge of opening,” she said. “It’s going to be a good thing.”
No more news
Adrienne Schlake was recently hired as the Siloam Springs Online Academy Coordinator.
Schlake, who holds a master’s degree in curriculum and teaching from the University of Nebraska, has taught subjects such as Spanish, English as a second language, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in private and public schools. She recently worked at the New School in Fayetteville.
Schlake said she became passionate about using technology to educate students while working at Lincoln, Neb. Public Schools in 2013, where she was an early adopter of the Chromebooks, as the district began piloting the integration of technology into school areas and offering each of the district’s 40,000 students their own device.
“I am so thrilled to be able to virtually support over 500 students in a way that has never been done with the full backing of a district supporting a virtual academy program,” she said.