July 21, 2008

Walla Walla to Introduce Classes Over the Internet

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

Jul. 21--WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla schools are joining a growing number in the Mid-Columbia offering more students the chance to take classes online.

The district is starting a virtual program in the fall aimed at home schoolers. An information meeting for families is planned at the end of the month.

"We think there's a lot of opportunity for expansion in the future," said Mark Higgins, district spokesman. "This is a great way for us to get an introduction."

Home school students in kindergarten through eighth grade already can come to the district twice a week for art, science, P.E. writing and/or primary reading/writing classes through the Homelink program.

The virtual program will give them access to those sessions plus online classes, from math to foreign language.

There's no charge and families will get a $1,200 stipend to help cover materials and other costs.

The district is using curriculum from K12 Inc., a learning company that provides services for virtual schools across the country.

About 20 students have signed up so far in Walla Walla. The Homelink program has about 85 students a year, the district said.

Online programs have gained popularity in recent years, and school districts across the U.S. -- including in the Tri-City area -- have started or expanded their own programs rather than lose students to other providers.

Students in Walla Walla will have regular contact with the district teachers who run Homelink. They'll be there for support and guidance, said Valerie Gentzler, Homelink program coordinator for the district.

"(This) is really a way to individualize education. Not everybody fits into the same mold," Gentzler said.

The meeting is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 29 in the district board room, 364 S. Park St.


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