Sheila Miller

Sheila Miller

Every student in the Redmond School District is currently learning online. But while the majority of students are participating in comprehensive distance learning and eagerly awaiting an in-person return to the classroom, other families have chosen to enroll their students in Redmond School District’s new full-time online program this year.

And the district hopes to continue to expand that program, providing families another learning option that will stick around even after the pandemic is no longer the hot topic on our news feeds.

The district has offered the Redmond K-12 Online program since 2012. That program allows students to complete coursework entirely online, contracting with two online learning platforms, Connections Learning and K-12 Learning Solutions, and giving students flexibility in location, how quickly they move through the content, and individualized learning. Almost 100 students in the district use this program.

This year, faced with the uncertainty of a global pandemic, the district decided to offer another online option for students. The full-time online program is taught by Redmond School District teachers for students in kindergarten through fifth grades.

Chris Morton, the district’s director of school improvement, said eight teachers oversee almost 300 students who are participating in the K-5 FTO. “We had talked about this idea of an online program using our own teachers for a few years,” Morton said.

“Suddenly we found ourselves in this situation — a worldwide pandemic — where there was a strong community of families who were looking for this. And that was the catalyst to grow this program.”

Students in the full-time online program have one Redmond teacher and a cohort of other students in their class, and the teacher manages the pace of learning. Teachers offer live lessons, some small group instruction, office hours and communication with families.

The program will remain online all year, whether students currently in comprehensive distance learning return to classrooms in person or not. Families find this provides stability and certainty in a time when not much feels certain. And when COVID-19 is a thing of the past, the district will continue offering this option.

“Our goal is to go forward into the future with FTO by maintaining and building it as a strong option for families who would like an online opportunity but want to be connected to our school district and our teachers,” Morton said. He noted the district is in the early stages of exploring an option that would provide more paper-based learning supports for families who want the full-time online program, but with less screen time and more parent involvement.

For Morton and other district leaders, it’s about helping families have choices in how they choose to educate their children. “We have families in our community who have different needs, and we’re working within the constraints we’re given to provide as many family options as possible.”

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