High school: version 2.0 – District introduces full menu of online classes | TheUnion.com

High school: version 2.0 – District introduces full menu of online classes

You can shop, bank and even earn a college degree on the Internet. Now you can attend a Nevada County high school, too.

After a successful online summer school program this year, Nevada Joint Union High School District is unveiling virtual high school as part of its independent study program, Sierra Mountain High School.

The school on McCourtney Road, west of Grass Valley, enrolls about 70 students who opt out of traditional high school for a variety of reasons. Some have a long-term illness, some live in remote areas, others are home-schoolers. Students mix and match teacher instruction, assignments and – new this fall – online coursework.

“It’s a great tool,” said Sierra Mountain Principal Anita Bagwell.

Online courses will reach students who want to take Advanced Placement classes outside the traditional high school setting or those who need to work at their own pace.

Senior Shoalay Morris, of Camptonville, spent her freshman and sophomore years at Nevada Union, but the social aspects of campus life were distracting and she fell behind in classes.

She’s had more success at Sierra Mountain, where there’s less of a social life, but more personal attention.

“My grades have been doing much better,” said Morris, 17. “There’s no question I’m graduating on time.”

Morris is taking art appreciation and music appreciation online. She meets weekly with her teacher to get reading, essay and research project assignments, and then attends a “math lab” Tuesdays and Thursdays for her algebra class.

Online classes require more initiative on her part, but the lessons are fun and interactive, she said. Better yet, she’s on track to pursue her dreams of community college, then a four-year degree in marine biology.

The program comes as a cash-strapped Sierra College has limited its course offerings to high school students. Home school and independent study students who used to supplement their coursework with college classes are left scrambling for options.

Families looking for online high school classes have turned to paid programs; others turn to charter schools based outside of the county.

“There are lots of places to ‘shop’ in the county,” Bagwell said. “It makes competition part of our strategy.”

The high school district reviewed five software providers and chose a company called Apex. The curriculum is approved by the College Board, makers of the SAT, and offers a full range of college prep courses – from remedial algebra to AP calculus.

Bagwell said she’s been surprised at how well the online component is working for students who seemed they might not have the self-discipline for an independent study program.

One sophomore girl who had chronic attendance issues and family problems has been scoring very well in her Apex classes.

“It’s very interactive and motivating for her,” Bagwell said. “Now, she’s excited about school.”

Another girl who is a native Spanish speaker has been scoring high Bs in geometry through Apex. The program delivers her geometry lessons in Spanish while she reads along in English.

But the program’s edge is not the software – it’s the strength of the district’s teaching staff, Bagwell said.

“Never is it going to replace great teachers,” she said.

“Our very best resources will always be the teachers.”

Sierra Mountain accepts new students year-round. For more information, call the school at (530) 477-1225.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail mrindels@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4247.

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