SILOAM SPRINGS – At least 530 students will be returning to online school this fall thanks to the new Siloam Springs School District Online Academy.
Assistant superintendent Amy Carter said classes for Kindergarten to 12th grade online academy students will utilize private company curricula 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, wrote Superintendent Jody Wiggins 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 it a higher priority to put in place a program that could be sustained for several years and serve students in the best possible way, 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 Valerie King, director of gifted and talented tutoring and programs, worked to make the academy a reality.
Initially, the district put a cap of 150 students on the academy, but there was so much interest after a series of parent meetings in June that administrators decided to open enrollment to more students, 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 reach out to 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-motivated and 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, manage their time well, be effective communicators and engage personally, 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 to Grade 6, which will be delivered by teachers in Siloam Springs. Currently, one teacher per grade level has been assigned to teach students online, Carter said.
The school has contracted with Summit Learning for students in Grades 7 to 12, and Siloam Springs teachers in various areas of expertise will deliver the program, she said. Middle and high school online academy teachers will teach both online and in-person students, with around three periods per day dedicated to online students, she said.
Students will have goals with their online program that they work on at their own pace and there will be times when they will work synchronously or asynchronously with other students and teachers, Carter said. Participation will be linked to the achievement of weekly goals, says the program guide.
Students will be able to access all of the services offered by Siloam Springs schools in traditional schools, including special education, gifted and talented services, and learning English, Carter said. Pupils from grade seven to senior will be allowed to come to the site to participate in AAA sanctioned activities such as orchestra, choir and track and field, as well as vocational and technical classes, a-t she 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 intended the academy to have a presence in the school district for years to come.
“We are excited about the new challenge of opening this opening,” she said. “It’s going to be a good thing.”
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Adrienne Schlake was recently hired as the coordinator of the Siloam Springs Online Academy.
Schlake, who holds an MA 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 Mathematics) in private schools and public. 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 one of the first to adopt Chromebooks. , as the district began piloting the integration of technology into program areas and offering each of the 40,000 students in the neighborhood their own device.
âI am truly thrilled to be able to virtually support over 500 students in a way that has never been done with the full support of a district supporting a virtual academy program,â she said.