Following current trends, Lake Tahoe Unified School District has recently implemented an online learning program for the first time this year. In the program, students can choose from a variety of accredited courses not offered at the local level.
If Spanish isn’t a preference for learning a foreign language, students can take French, German or Chinese. If they want to continue studying history, online options offer courses in the Civil War, 20th century history and more.
“It’s not a light version of the course,” said Joe Pfeil, an online education teacher for the district, “it’s a full course they’re taking.”
Currently in its first year, 28 students in the district are taking one or more online courses throughout the K-12 level. Of those, 19 are taking a blend of online and classroom courses and nine are fully online.
“Nine kids wouldn’t be in this district if we didn’t have this,” Pfeil said.
The majority of online students are taking high school courses, but five of them are receiving an online education at the K-8 level.
According to the district, a virtual education benefits several groups of students including homeschoolers, working students, athletes, entertainers and professionals, students wanting to accelerate, students wanting to repeat and homebound students.
Katie Sears, a 17-year-old South Tahoe High School senior, is on the golf team and uses the online program to continue her education of history. She sometimes misses class because of sports, she said, but online courses offer more flexibility.
“I can catch up nicely,” Sears said, “and don’t have to take notes from a friend.”
The district is making the transition to online courses because they offer a number of advantages, such as flexibility and personalization, Principal Ivone Larson said. Learning is available at any place and time, with no limits.
“For an online learner,” she said, “if I’m really into this program I can spend all day in it.”
Online options also allow honors and AP courses, foundation courses and rigorous support, according to the district.
The district’s online students can work from a specially designated classroom or from home. If they have any questions, Pfeil is available to help.
“Sometimes we forget this is how the world is changing,” Larson said.
Looking forward, Larson said she hopes the district expands its online program. She also expects enrollment to increase over the next several years, as more students become aware of the benefits of online learning.
“We are educating a whole planet,” she said, “and we can do that here in Lake Tahoe.”