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The future of education?

The Insight Charter School has kicked off their first year at CCSD, but it is only one of three online learning options available to students

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Sophomore Taylor Quinn works on an insight lesson at Crook County Christian School Friday morning. Quinn is in her second year in the Insight Alternative virtual school through Crook County High School. She likes the flexibility that the learning option offers for her.

With the Insight Charter School in its first year and the Insight Alternative School beginning the third year, the education community is watching the virtual schools closely.
   So far, Crook County School District Curriculum Director Dennis Kostelecky said that as of Friday, the district had 127 students that had been enrolled and approved. There were a total of 271 students who had applied, but were not yet approved.
   “The numbers are increasing by leaps and bounds,” said Kostelecky.
   He said they don’t have a breakdown of the number of students who have enrolled from Crook County yet, but the largest number of applicants so far is in grades nine through 11. In these three grades alone, there are 138 applicants (not all approved yet). There are also 49 applicants in grades one and two. The others are pretty evenly spread out between the other grade levels.
   Kostelecky believes that the numbers will level out in approximately two weeks. He emphasized that all students who apply can qualify for the Insight Charter School.
   “We take all kids. It’s just a matter of going through the process.”
   Crook County High School has 811 students enrolled as of Sept. 7. Pioneer Alternative School and Rimrock had cumulative numbers of 72 as of that date. The Insight Alternative School had 165 students enrolled. The total district enrollment for all programs as of Friday was 3,246.
   For the first time, Crook County is offering one Insight online class to students during the school year. The students go to a designated classroom with computers that connect them to their online instructors. The classroom has a coordinator to assist students with questions and content.
   “Our experience has been that if you have the opportunity to sit down in a room on a regular schedule with an adult, than the progress of those classes goes way up,” said CCSD Superintendent Duane Yecha. “We were eager to provide a room with that opportunity.”
   So far, Kostelecky said that they have more than 100 students enrolled in this new offering so far.
   At Crook County Christian School, the hybrid model that CCHS is using is in its third year. Sue Uptain, principal for CCCS, said that she started out with one student the first year, and now she has a classroom that is staffed three days per week and is dedicated to students who want help with tutoring for a small monthly fee.
   Uptain said she does not have any students that come to her classroom who are in the new Insight Charter School. They are all enrolled in the Insight Alternative School. She also explained that there are now three options to online learning through Crook County School District. There is the Insight Charter School, the Insight Alternative School, and the option of taking one class through Insight Alternative School while being enrolled as a full-time student at CCHS.
   One of the considerations of the Charter School is the fact that students cannot take classes at the high school, but in the alternative option, the students can be dual-enrolled in Insight and CCHS. Students involved in the tutoring option at CCCS all agreed that this option was important to them.
   On a Friday morning, several of these students were engrossed in their various studies, and each student had different reasons for their choice of learning.
   Riley Larimer is a sophomore, and likes the option of the Insight Alternative School for various reasons, but he especially likes the fact that he can be enrolled in both online classes and classes at the Crook County High School.
   “I like this option because it gives me the ability to work ahead or if I am behind, I can get caught up on my own,” said Larimer.” I can work at my own pace, but I still have people holding me accountable to say where I am supposed to be.”
   Larimer has an independent learning style, but he also appreciates that he has help when he needs it. He takes two classes at CCHS and the balance of his classes through Insight.
   Lilly Villastrigo is a junior, and she has been in the Insight Alternative option for three years. She is becoming more comfortable with the program, and she said that this year she has had all the same teachers except for one instructor.
   Villastrigo has never taken any high school classes other than those at Insight, and decided on the option because of the smaller, quieter environment and the fact that she has her teacher’s full attention when she needs it. She has also learned to adjust to the fact that her online instructors may not always be able to answer questions right away.
   “If the (virtual) teachers don’t answer you back as soon as they can, than you kind of just move on and come back to it.”
   Josh Samuel is a sophomore, and he is in his second year of taking online classes through Insight.
   “I prefer this over public school, because I feel like with the tutors here they can serve less people and they can focus more on the students,” explained Samuel. “I like having the tutoring option, because without a tutor here, I would struggle with certain subjects.”
   He said for him it really is the best of both worlds. In classes like math, it is easier if the tutor can write it on the board or explain it.
   Samuel said the first year was kind of rough, having to adjust to managing his own schedule. He emphasized that if other students were to look at this option, this was an important consideration.
   “You have to learn how to manage your own schedule well, and stay on top of your work and not procrastinate.”