Whittell program would give students more classes: Online learning, college classes would expand course offerings | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell program would give students more classes: Online learning, college classes would expand course offerings

Sara Thompson

A program to offer more classes to Whittell High School students through online learning and courses at Lake Tahoe Community College took a step forward with the award of a $10,000 grant to the high school.

The high school received the funds to plan the changes from the state of Nevada through the Nevada Empowerment Program, Douglas County School District Superintendent Carol Lark announced over the weekend.

The Nevada Legislature in its last session approved the Empowerment Program, whose goal is to give schools across the state a way to provide more options for their students.

At Whittell, that would mean bringing more online classes into the school, along with distance learning, said Whittell Principal Sue Shannon. Students would also be able to enroll in more classes at LTCC. These solutions would offer certain classes and electives that now can’t be met due to the small number of teachers.

“I just want to have the flexibility for programs since we are a small school,” Shannon said.

This year, 204 students are attending Whittell High School, which is 17 fewer students than last year. Reasons include home-schooling, the high cost of housing in the area and other factors, said Shannon. This new program might be able to bring students back, she said.

At the Douglas County School Board meeting Oct. 9, Shannon presented the program to board members.

Shannon said she wants to spend the money on technology and training staff how to teach effectively with it.

Douglas County School Board Member Keith Roman voiced his concern over the work load the teachers would be asked to fulfill if distance learning became a regular practice. He said students need supervision to make sure they keep up with their studies. He said he is supportive of distance learning but wants to make sure all the angles are looked at.

“This thing has got to be done right,” Roman said.

Rural schools in Nevada have turned to online classes and distance learning in order to offer more classes to students, Douglas County School Board Clerk Cynthia Trigg said. She said she traveled to other schools in the state and observed teachers and students making it work.

Whittell does offer online classes now, but once the program starts, that number will expand. These options would give students more choices for math and other subjects.

Shannon said supervision for students would be addressed in the planning grant. The planning grant gives the school one year to determine what the money will be used for from the Nevada Empowerment Program, which is separate from the grant money that will be received after the plan is approved.

The planning grant would need the school board’s approval before moving on to the state, Douglas County Superintendent Carol Lark said. Then after the state’s approval, the programs could move forward.

College classes would need to be evaluated and approved by high school counselors for students. This term, out of 3,264 students who are part-time and full-time at LTCC, 124 students are in high school.

High school students are welcomed and encouraged to take classes at the college, said Lori Gaskin, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Services at Lake Tahoe Community College.

All the expectations are the same and the college would not change the content of their courses if more high school students attended LTCC. Some courses contain adult content in nature, such as the human sexuality class, and younger students would need to understand that, she said.

Another difference between high school and college that students should be aware of is that transcripts are legal documents. They can’t just retake a course if they do poorly, Gaskin said. The grade stays with them forever, she said. For high school transcripts, students have the opportunity to retake classes for a different grade.

Gaskin said the college is a resource for the high schools and students can only advance themselves by using it.

The community college is good practice for high school students to be on their own before they go off to college, Roman said.

Using the college is great, Trigg said, but she also doesn’t want students to miss the socialization that high school provides.

“I want students pushed to their potential,” Trigg said. “But I don’t want them to forget their in high school.”

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