By Katharhynn Heidelberg Daily Press Senior Writer
When it comes to online education options, Bob Lee has been hard at it for two years as principal of the school district’s Peak Virtual Academy.
Lee, who is also an assistant principal for Olathe Middle and High Schools, will be stepping into a new role starting in July, one that’s designed to recognize growing demand for online schooling districtwide.
Next school year, Lee will be director of alternative education for the Montrose County School District, while retaining his role as principal of Peak Virtual Academy.
“This position is going to tie everything together,” Lee said Monday. “Charter schools are part of the district. This is going to help solidify and get (students) the things they need.”
The district is placing Peak, Passage Charter, Vista Charter, students placed at the Brown Center, summer school and adult education/GED under a single umbrella.
The school board recently approved the director’s position and job description. Lee competed for the job before being selected over three other applicants, district spokeswoman Mindy Baumgardner said.
“We really saw a value and that we needed to make it a position that dedicated all its time to (virtual education),” she said. “I think there is a switch in alternative education and we just want to meet the needs of students. We really saw that it constituted a full-time person, based on increased enrollment in our alternative (programs).”
Peak Virtual Academy uses K12-Aventa curriculum and weekly class connect sessions with teachers, according to the district. The curriculum meets Colorado academic standards; students who complete high school graduation requirements will receive a diploma. The academy helps homebound students, such as those who are seriously ill, and home school students. Students can also take some of their courses, such as PE, band or ROTC, at the actual school.
“We’re trying to meet the needs. It (online learning in general) provides more opportunities for kids today than it has in the past,” Lee said.
Peak also offers credit recovery for the district, enabling students to make up work. About 40 to 50 students are participating in that program districtwide, Lee said.
Overall enrollment in Peak is about 78, said Baumgardner. Passage Charter has 21 students participating and Vista has 142. Brown Center enrollment fluctuates.
The Brown Center provides a shelter and structured environment for boys, who stay for varying periods. Some of them may be part of the criminal justice system; however, the majority are not, staffers there have said previously.
“They can use our online (options) and earn credits during their stay,” Lee said. “We’re actually doing all kinds of different things. It’s different than it was 10 years ago. We’re having all of these different options and possibilities for kids.”
The school district plans on offering a test site for online certification in skilled trades for adults. It will become one of the new testing facilities for the Western Slope and could be up and running by Sept. 1.
“Testing is actually changing. We have to move in the direction of where it’s being done online. We have to be able to accommodate those needs as well,” Baumgardner said.
Lee said that two years ago, the district wanted to offer more online learning, and he volunteered to take it on. Initial efforts drew 20 to 30 students.
“Now we’re servicing well over 100. The district has been kind of visionary, if you will,” Lee said. “I had no idea what I was getting into, but it’s been nice. I jumped at the opportunity.”