In a bit of an ironic twist, the mandated Distance Learning may have given some Cambridge-Isanti students a glimpse into what their full-time education may look like, if they choose. During the May 21 school board meeting, the board approved a request from Ray Sperl and Director of Teaching and Learning Dr. Brenda Damiani for the district to become an Online Learning Provider.
According to Sperl, many districts, including the three largest neighboring districts, have made available to students the option of taking online courses to complete their required curriculum. Over the past year, a task force has been looking into how C-I could offer those same opportunities.
“Some students who live within the boundaries of Cambridge-Isanti Schools are choosing to pursue an education online outside of our district,” Sperl told the board. “Providing this program would give students like this the opportunity to stay in their home district.”
While all of the specifics haven’t been ironed out yet, Sperl said the initial implementation would include using current systems and programs such as Schoology, Edmentum Plato and Google Hangouts Meet, which has been used in abundance during Distance Learning.
“We will utilize similar practices and procedures that we’ve used during our COVID-19 Distance Learning situation,” Sperl said. “So this has provided us a great opportunity to pilot some of these plans and work that has been done over the last year.”
Sperl said the online courses would differ from Distance Learning in it would provide more direct individualized communication between instructors and students.
“This is not a model where they get assigned to a class and you don’t see them until the end,” Sperl said. “There will be active engagement between the instructors, the students, parents and administrators.
“You look at our district mission and it talks about meeting the unique needs of our students,” he continued. “Having this pathway for students will provide that additional environment that may be beneficial for them. We’re not saying online learning is for everybody. There are benefits to the ‘brick and mortar’ setting, there are benefits to the online setting. So we are trying to blend the best of online and the best of the brick and mortar.”
Sperl said he wasn’t sure how many students would be taking advantage of this option, which will be offered for grades six through 12. However, the district will be reaching out to families for feedback on Distance Learning and will gauge their interest at that time. He added that at first, this option will only be made available to students currently within the district, plus ones who have already gone to online courses through other districts. However once the program gets established, they would be looking at marketing it to students in other districts.
The program must still get approval from the Minnesota Department of Education, who can take up to 90 days before approving the request.