Lakeview to offer online school option

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 23, 2018

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Lakeview Public Schools Superintendent Karl Paulson said it’s high time the district expanded its offerings to meet the needs of virtually every kind of student.

“In the environment that we have now, in the educational marketplace, to not offer this is sort of almost irresponsible,” he said, referring to plans to offer an online virtual K-12 school for interested students in the fall.

The Lakeview Board of Education approved plans for such a program at its February meeting.

“We know there are many homeschool families who would utilize services like this. We know there are certain students who are beginning to be focused on unique sporting activities that, oftentimes, have them participating in a homeschool-like curriculum,” Paulson said. “There’s a niche of families that we can serve but weren’t.”

That being said, Paulson stressed that a virtual learning environment isn’t for everyone. Those who wish to enroll will have access to a variety of programs for various learning styles and will be connected with a mentor from the district, who will check in with the student on a routine basis: twice weekly for elementary students and once per week for middle and high school students. In addition, most virtual students will have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities like field trips, and will be eligible for district clubs and sports.

There will be three different “pathways” for families to choose from. A general virtual education experience will not include much support from the district. A hybrid model would allow students to, for example, take core classes online, and also come into school for band or AP physics, or any other type of class that the student may not succeed as well at in an independent setting.

The third pathway would be an opportunity for those facing long-term suspension or other disciplinary action, especially in the middle school grades when, Paulson said, there isn’t an alternative type of school available as there is for high school students. Those students participating because of disciplinary action would not be eligible for extracurricular activities, clubs or sports.

In most cases, Paulson said, students would have a much more flexible schedule than in a typical classroom setting. Teachers could utilize blogs or videos and still be responsive to student inquiries while giving them the flexibility to learn on their own schedule.

A taskforce of teachers, administrators and central staff have vetted the virtual school platforms that will be offered, he said. Students in the virtual school would still have to take state assessments and would be expected to log in daily following the Lakeview district calendar.

Jennifer Zaborowski, the dean of students for Jefferson Middle School and Princeton Elementary, was a member of that task force. She has experience with virtual learning platforms through the district’s summer school program.

“One of the main benefits that occur when a student takes a course online is that the student is provided the opportunity to move at his or her own pace through the individualized curriculum,” she stated in an email. “Students who excel can move faster through a course and often experience extended learning opportunities based upon the content they can demonstrate mastery in, and students who need more practice with content can work at a pace conducive to their own learning needs, reviewing and revisiting material as needed.

Lakeview already uses the Edgenuity and Michigan Virtual School platforms, explained Scott Kapla, Lakeview High School principal and chair of the district’s technology committee.

“Not all students are able to learn within the brick-and-mortar classroom, whether that’s due to illness or circumstances out of their control,” he stated in an email. “The possibilities are many, however, there are procedures and protocols which we will institute during enrollment to ensure that online (virtual school) is the best academic plan for the student and the student’s family.

“Quality control is an important aspect to this, and we want to make sure the students that enroll understand the expectations of what it means to be a Lakeview student.”

The Lakeview Virtual School will be offered beginning in the fall. Those interested can contact the district to register. The virtual school will be open to Macomb County residents through Schools of Choice as well.

Although the online teachers will be employed through whichever virtual school platform the district contracts with for that specific class, teacher mentors will be current Lakeview teachers, “so we know we’ll have good, quality people following up,” Paulson said.