TWIN FALLS, Idaho — It may be the middle of summer vacation for students, but local school districts are already working on plans for the fall.
For the Twin Falls School District, part of those plans include a virtual schoolhouse. The schoolhouse itself isn't a new program--it's one they've been offering to families who choose to home school for the past three years--but this fall, it's expanding to give families worried about COVID-19 another option.
"The school district is doing the best they can to plan ahead, but we don't know. Are kids going to be going every other day to school? Are they going to wear masks? We don't know, so this is a great option for families who still want to public school but don't feel comfortable sending their students," explained Shawnee Zelenka, manager of teachers and curriculum at Venture Upward.
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 Zelenka. "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."
The virtual schoolhouse is only for grades K-8, but students at the high school level have the option to do online classes through the Idaho Digital Learning Academy.
"They can start taking classes at that point in time, to keep up through that system if they'd like to as well," explained Bill Brulotte, Associate Superintendent of the Twin Falls School District.
If students choose to enroll in the virtual schoolhouse, they are required to spend the entire year there, according to the district.
"That way they're kept on track, so if they decide the following year they want to return to the Twin Falls School District they have that option, and they'll also know that their kids are on track," Brulotte explained.