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Charter schools offer alternatives to students

Estacadas two virtual schools enable flexible learning options


Although society and technology have evolved rapidly over the past several decades, the public education system is largely the same as it ever was: teachers in a classroom instructing students.

But the advent of the Internet has enabled the formation of charter schools to provide an alternative form of education to students who otherwise might fall through the cracks.

There are now two such schools in Estacada. The first, the Estacada Web Academy, was founded in 2008, with the Estacada Early College formed the following year.

Sean Gallagher, who serves as associate principal for the schools, said they serve more than 800 students throughout Estacada and the Portland metropolitan area.

“It’s a different approach to completing education that fits with the ideas of what a whole host of families might find appropriate,” Gallagher said. “We have a cross-section of students typical to any public high school, for a reduced size. There’s less of a student-to-teacher ratio. There’s a unique sense of education accomplished. Virtual learning is different from a traditional classroom. That uniqueness fills a niche that is unmet in traditional education.”

Charter schools enable teenagers to earn community college credits in a flexible manner, Gallagher said. That way, they can maintain employment while continuing their studies and working toward a college degree.

“The Web Academy allows kids access to curriculum in a home environment over a computer, which we provide to the students. They log in to our learning management system. From there, they can access the curriculum,” Gallagher said. “They can make their own pace so their schedule meets their daily life. The concept of a bell schedule is no longer a limitation to how a student progresses.”

Many students are high school juniors and seniors who are behind in credits and looking to catch up, Gallagher said.

“Every year at graduation, our class grows,” he said. “There are children there who may or may not have gotten their diplomas without us. We help them get through it.”

Despite the high-tech virtual components, the schools do still allow for in-person interactions. Gallagher said field trips are scheduled every month and study halls are held on a weekly basis. Two open houses are held every year, along with parent-teacher conferences at the end of every semester.

“The students have a number of opportunities to make their virtual education more personal,” Gallagher said. “They’re not just sitting at home locked in a closet with their computers on their laps.”

For more information, go to estacadacharters.org.




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