I•School, nonprofit in Incline Village, offers blended learning for students
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — I•School in Incline Village is a nonprofit that encourages students who have had a hard time fitting into traditional school. With distance learning becoming more prominent due to the pandemic, I•School has already been instructing from a distance for about a decade.
I•School currently has less than 50 students and focuses primarily on grades 7-12, but as the demand increases they plan to look into intertwining with the elementary school.
I•School was founded in 2011 by Kathryn Kelly. The school was formerly known as Elearning Cafe. Kelly needed something different than traditional school for her two children who traveled a lot.
“They needed something different than what was offered at the lake,” said Alex Heilig, assistant director of I•School and also a science and social studies instructor.
I•School caters to motivated students who feel they are not being challenged enough or feel like they are falling behind and students who need more flexibility with their schedules.
Heilig said the initial program started off small but has now expanded to offer more options for electives and advanced placement courses than traditional school.
Prior to the pandemic, students had the option to come in and work with faculty or work through distance learning on an online platform. While the course group work and the socialized course have now moved to Zoom, a sense of community and natural dialogue is still encouraged in the virtual meetings.
Heilig said there are more students interested in getting enrolled, especially as many try to adapt to distanced learning from their traditional schools. Every student and situation is looked at independently. There are no strict deadlines, instead the focus is placed on mastering topics at the students own learning pace. Faculty creates personalized calendars and an academic program based on the individual students’ interests and skills.
Heilig explained that if a student can’t find a class they are looking for, I•School will even try to outsource and hire a contract instructor or expertise in a certain field to make it available for the student.
“This gives students the ability to get real world education in the way of the future by giving students the individual freedom where a student has an interest and not forcing it,” said Heilig.
While I•School has a ‘learn at your own pace’ mentality, they also accommodate for students who aren’t being challenged enough by traditional school.
“We are rigorous,” said Heilig.
He says that I•School takes the time to understand what type of learner the student is so that individual can excel. I•School offers 27 AP courses and NCAA approved core courses for students.
The school also prides itself on being super flexible. Heilig explained that they have students that need a malleable schedule whether students are olympic athletes who need time to train, students who travel throughout the year or need special accommodations. I•School creates a plan to work with those students.
I•School offers part-time, full-time and ‘a la carte’ enrollment options. Part-times students can take classes in addition to homeschooling or another type of schooling, full-time students have a full course load and alacarte students can pick and choose from classes that interest them.
I•School has students enrolled from around the globe including the Czech Republic and Australia.
“We are at the whim of the community,” said Heilig. “The number one hurdle for us is word of mouth. People don’t know about this alternative resource.”
I•School is a nonprofit and receives funding from donations, grants and enrollment fees. While enrollment fees depend on the type class and enrollment, they try to never turn away a student due to financial difficulties.
“You don’t get that type of personalization at brick and mortar settings,” he said. “There is no longer the concept of getting left behind in school.”
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