WILDER, Idaho — The Wilder School District launched a new statewide virtual learning program based on personalized, mastery education.
The idea for Idaho Future Ready Academy for Virtual Learning sparked during the pandemic when many families struggled with at-home education, founding school Principal John Carlisle said in an interview with Idaho News 6 on Friday.
"We really want to focus on that life-school balance in families," Carlisle said. "I think during the pandemic, a lot of families realized it is really difficult to try and have learning happen in the home with parents who need to work."
Jennifer Harris's son, Lane, has been learning online through the Wilder School District since March 2020 and transitioned to the Idaho Future Ready Academy for Virtual Learning this week.
"I never thought Lane would be one of those that could learn online and do home-school, but he did phenomenally and was successful," Harris said.
She said virtual schooling fits best for their families' "busy schedule."
"It's nice to be able to have that flexibility, to be able to have him create his schedule during the day and still get through all of his work," Harris said. "He has the ability to work on the weekends and catch up and even get ahead if he wants to."
Lane has a black belt in karate and practices taekwondo. He said learning online allows him to attend tournaments and practice.
While Lane said he would be interested in one-day going back into the classroom, he enjoys the ability to attend school online through the Wilder School District.
"It's better for my learning because (in school) I have all these distractions around me and can get a bit boring," he said.
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Lane Harris said that the school also bases education on the daily goals and student learning plan set by students and teachers that schedule what topics need more attention. His day-to-day includes completing classwork and having one-on-one meetings with his teacher online. He also learns about "Habits of Mind," which encourages students to use empathy and overcome challenges.
"The care of how much Wilder put into this, I thank them for putting this up and (think) it would help the other students," Lane Harris said. "If we mess up in a problem in math, we just laugh through it and move on instead of getting down on ourselves. I would say it helps a lot of students."
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Idaho Virtual Learning Academy for Virtual Learning is available for students throughout the state between eight and 12 years of age. Participating families are provided with $1,000 per semester to help pay for school-related expenses. Carlisle said the district hopes to expand the school's offerings to higher grade levels in the fall.
"There is still a need with omicron spreading for more consistent learning opportunities for families," he said. "Learning that won't need to be interrupted or families being worried about whether they need to wear a mask or if the teacher or a student will be out sick."