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Snoqualmie Valley schools go virtual with online academy

Snoqualmie Valley School District educators realized they were competing against technology when they found out that they had lost some 100 students to online academies last year.

Online academies have grown in popularity in Washington in recent years, attracting students involved in full-time careers and professional athletics looking to make up classes or accelerating for a jump start on college. Some educators predict that as much as 20 percent of the nation’s high school students will do some or all of their learning online in a decade.

“We need to be ready in the event,” said Jeff Hogan, district director of instructional technology. “If we don’t do it, the students may leave us.”

Last May, brainstorming began for a local Virtual Academy. In June, the district brought on board coordinator Lisa Truemper, a Mount Si High School social studies teacher, to head the program.

Partnering with Aventa Learning, the academy allows high school students to take classes online for credit toward a Mount Si High School diploma. It offers a hybrid of classes at Mount Si, online courses and credit-recovery classes.

Tech levy money supports the program. Classes cost about $275 each; families don’t pay anything for basic courses.

“No money comes out of the student’s pockets but if a student wants more classes aside from a full load at Mount Si, they’ll have to pay for those classes themselves,” said Hogan.

The academy’s goal is a student body of 20 to 30 full-time students, 10 credit-recovery students and 15 students in the hybrid mode this school year.

The academy differs from traditional online models by giving students added on-site privileges.

“If you’re at Snoqualmie Valley Virtual Academy, you can still go to a high school dance, participate in sports, programs and extracurricular activities,” Hogan said. “With other online academies, you’re out of the district and don’t have those privileges.”

Another on-site privilege is the mentorship program led by Truemper, who will meet with registered virtual academy students on a regular basis.

Office hours allow academy students to speak to instructors, face to face.

“It’s like having your own full-time access counselor to keep you moving and checking up on you,” Hogan said.

Students must log in for a set number of hours each week. A full-time load is comparable to a typical in-school week at Mount Si High School. What’s different are the hours—students can attend any time, as long as it’s within the required time period.

“It’s better for some kids,” said Hogan. “We’re trying to provide this program to make sure we have a broad array of offerings.”

Eventually, Hogan said Mount Si teachers will lead the courses. Once the academy is established, the idea may also be extended to middle schools.

• To learn more about the academy, e-mail Lisa Truemper at truemperl@svsd410.org or visit www.svsd410.org.

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