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Local High School Requires Online Courses

As legislators consider superintendent Tom Luna’s education reforms in Boise, one local school is ahead of the curve when it comes to technology.

It was fast fingers for Ali Garrett as she logged onto the Idaho Digital Learning Academy on Tuesday morning for her health occupation class.

“I personally think online classes are good for everyone,” said the junior.

Garrett’s administrators at Sugar-Salem High School agree. Since January 2010, students are required to take one online course throughout their four years.

“Technology is really part of the future of education,” said Principal Jared Jenks. “It’s essential they have that incorporated into the classroom.”

Right now it’s incorporated in one of two ways. Students can go through the IDLA like Garret and interact only with a computer, or they can elect the Idaho Education Network, and interact with a teacher via web-cam.

They can see and hear the instructor, and even ask questions.

“During class we didn’t waste time. Once we started, it went straight through the whole way,” said senior Tony Arreola, of taking Psych 101.

“It was more set up as a college course. (You) do the reading on your own and the end of it you have a test. “I never had any problems. I really enjoyed it,” said senior Syndi Parkinson, of the same class.

“I love teaching over the IEN,” said instructor Fred Woolley. “I love having more than just one classroom in front of me.”

While the IDLA isn’t face to face, it is done at school in a computer lab, with a teacher who takes attendance. Students have to meet their weekly assignments, but can do so at their own pace.

Garrett said the freedom works for her.

“You create more responsibility for yourself and are better prepared for college and any other class you’ll have to take,” said Garrett.

Jenks said about 12 students participated last year, and this year, more than 100 credits are being earned online.

He believes Luna’s proposal of four online courses is very reasonable, but is concerned over losing teachers. Less teachers, means students might not have someone in the room with them while they take the online courses.

Jenks said teachers who instruct the online courses can receive additional compensation outside their annual salary and any potential merit bonuses that could come from Luna’s pay for performance plan. Their compensation for online classes is based on the number of students.

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