Small District Leverages Online Learning

For one school district in Oregon, online learning is quickly becoming an essential way to provide more of its students with greater flexibility and options for achieving their academic goals. This past fall, Lebanon Community Schools launched the Oregon iSchool, a full-time online school for K-12 students. In addition, the district implemented online learning in its local schools for enrichment, special education, alternative education, and advanced studies. In the six months since launch, more than 450 students have enrolled in online courses.

Located in rural East Linn County, the district has recently faced high unemployment, homelessness, and other related issues that can make going to school a challenge for many students. To help provide their students as many educational options as possible, administrators at Lebanon Community Schools decided to implement an online learning program that would allow for scheduling and pacing flexibility.

"We want to meet all of our students' needs, whether they are preparing for college or a career, and help them go further than they ever thought possible," said Rob Hess, Superintendent of Lebanon Community Schools. "With online learning, our district can enable students to become 21(st) century learners by providing them the rigorous curriculum, tools, and support they need to succeed."

Lebanon Community Schools partners with K12 Inc., provider of education solutions for students in pre-kindergarten through high school. For its full-time online program, Oregon iSchool uses the K(12®) curriculum for students in grades K-5, and Aventa Learning(®) by K(12) for students in grades 6-12. The district also uses the Aventa curriculum in its local schools for enrichment. For example, middle school students receive additional math preparation and are able to take advanced courses, such as algebra and language arts.

The district also uses the A+nyWhere Learning System(®) (A+LS) by K(12) to customize courses. For a special education class at a local middle school, Lebanon teachers use A+LS to develop targeted lessons designed to address individual skill or learning gaps.

The programs use K(12) teachers who are certified in Oregon and are experienced in delivering online instruction. In addition, district teachers provide in-person support for students and their families.

Kim Fandino, Online Program Coordinator for Lebanon Community Schools, says, "We know well that when it comes to students, one size does not fit all. With online learning, we have all of the resources we need to help each student progress in his or her own way."

For one family, Oregon iSchool has been an excellent solution for its three children in grades 7 and 8. The mother says, "Using the online school has been a tremendous blessing to our family. We have been homeschooling for a number of years, but we were looking for a rigorous curriculum and, at the same time, we wanted to give our children the opportunity to interact with other students and teachers. We are able to be involved on a daily basis and check in with the kids to see how they are doing. The teachers and mentors provide great support to the students and parents. The students can work at their own pace. They can work ahead, or they can have extra time if a particular lesson is challenging. Once we learned how to navigate the system and the technology of the courses, we hit the ground running. Our children have been learning a tremendous amount this year and have been getting great grades doing it."

Students participating in the online programs can also take advantage of other flexible academic and extracurricular options. They may take courses taught in local schools in the traditional classroom setting, for subjects such as culinary, vocational, or fine arts. They may also participate in local school athletics. In addition, students may participate in an extended 5-year high school program to simultaneously receive a diploma and an associate degree upon completion.

One parent describes how Oregon iSchool has helped her daughter recover from a troubling period in her life. She had been struggling in a large high school environment where peer pressure was prevalent, and her achievements went unrecognized.

According to the teen's parents, after just one semester at Oregon iSchool, she has regained focus and is back on track. Her mother says, "She really feels like she is a part of something now, but she also has the room and freedom to do her school work, hold down a job, and also participate in a high school sport - and just belong! This non-linear path has been just what she needed."