Virtual classes offer real rewards for local students
Published 11:00 am Thursday, August 21, 2014
By Ngoc Vo
Fall semester begins for Pike County schools with students not only going to classes but also logging onto online courses.
Approximately 30 students started Virtual High School on Aug. 11, according Jeff McClure, director of alternative learning center. McClure said he anticipates around 50 enrollments for the program’s inaugural year.
Virtual High School offers both credit recovery and advanced courses.
Administrative Assistant to the Pike County School System Superintendent, Dr. Mark Head said McClure, the school counselors and he identified the students who had fallen behind as candidates for the virtual high school program.
“We sat down to look through transcripts,” Head said. “We then met with parents and students to show our plan and how it would work, what their responsibilities are.”
According to Head, the students’ schedules are manipulated and tailored to meet individual needs and help students graduate on time.
“Virtual High School offers flexibility, unlike the traditional blocks or school periods,” Head said. “Students work at their own speed to get things done and catch up.”
McClure said the program is unique to Pike County students. Although the curriculum is based on the standard high school curriculum, Superintendent Dr. Mark Bazzell designs alternative graduation options for students.
Pike County School System requires students to earn 30 credits to graduate. The minimum requirement for the State of Alabama is 24 credits.
According to Head, a Virtual High School student may be eligible to graduate with 26 credits, three of which must be for career technical courses from the same field. The student will graduate as a completer of a career technical field.
“We have some parents that were not sure about the program,” McClure said. “But after meeting with us, they became more enthusiastic.”
For the Virtual High School advanced track, seven students are enrolled in Aviation program and eight students in Global Studies.
The Global Studies program includes 24 credit hours from Troy University, Head said. It offers dual enrolment where students get both college and high school credits.
The bulk of Virtual High School instruction is done through ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms Educators, & Students Statewide) distance learning, according to Head.
Jodie Jefcoat is the facilitator at the program’s computer lab at Troy University Extended Learning Center. However, the ACCESS instructors oversee the day to day operation of the Virtual High School, Head said.
“It is a good program to be a part of,” Kayla Lee, a Pike County High School senior from Troy. “I’m glad it helps me to catch up and graduate with my class.
“I learn better online. The teachers are really nice and it’s a small (classroom) environment. I feel proud.”
Tuition, book costs and fees are paid by the Pike County Schools system. Transportation is also provided for free.
Students can talk to their school counselor about the application process.
“The number of students we can serve is limited,” said McClure. “Applicants (who wants to take college credits) will also be reviewed by Troy University, with the students’ GPA, ACT scores, entrance exam results and the principal’s recommendation in consideration.
“We are glad that we are in partnership with Troy University,” Head said. “However, we hope to eventually get to a point where we can function as a stand alone school.”