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Hagerman Joint School District working to provide "Virtual Schoolhouse" program

Posted at 2:28 PM, Jul 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 11:25:03-04

HAGERMAN, Idaho — As schools across the state prepare to announce their plans for reopening school in the fall, districts in south-central Idaho are working to provide their students with more online options.

As part of those efforts, the Twin Falls School District is expanding their virtual schoolhouse program this year--and the Hagerman Joint School District is following their lead.

In Hagerman, the plan is to bring students back for the fall, with precautions, but for those who don't feel comfortable attending face to face, this is an option.

"The board is aware of it. They're going to get a presentation on it this next board meeting, my guess is we'll be moving forward with it," explained Dr. Jim Brown, superintendent of the district. "It's just another option for students who choose to homeschool instead of going to school face to face."

All of the curriculum standards are the same as they would be in traditional classrooms, but something unique about the virtual schoolhouse is the collaboration between parents and teachers.

"The credits, everything they do, it just counts the same as a regular public school. They're still Twin Falls School District students," explained Shawnee Zelenka, manager of teachers and curriculum at Venture Upward. "They're the ones that are in the trenches with their kids, and so my role is to help them to understand the curriculum. It helps them to understand what's required of them."

Through in-depth monitoring of the student's progress, and frequent check-ins, the parents and teachers are able to provide a more personalized learning experience.

"Very seldom do you find a student that's a hundred percent grade level--they only work 4th-grade level in every subject," Zelenka said. "A lot of times they're ahead in some things, and maybe you'll find some spots in math they're a little bit behind in fractions or something. This adaptive curriculum allows the students to work at the level they're at in each topic."

For districts like Hagerman where there are lots of students living in rural areas, it gives families more choices.

"It just provides another option for certain students. As we know not every student learns the same. Some students really prefer distance learning and online feel. For those students, it's a great option," said Brown.

If students choose to enroll in the virtual schoolhouse, they are required to spend the entire year there, according to the district.