School officials explain online program

By Tony Parra

Portales administrators were happy with the 100 percent sign-up rate after their presentation on online courses on Thursday evening at the Portales High School library.
The goal of the administrators was to assure parents that high school students would receive the same quality of education learning through online courses as the quality of education from a classroom setting on the PHS campus.
Tabitha Dover, PHS sophomore, said her mother’s mind was set on not allowing her to take online classes. However, her mother, Mary Stuart, said her questions were answered after the presentation.
“My biggest concern was, how do I know (my daughter is) doing the classwork while I’m at work?” Stuart said. “But now I realize she will be monitored and it’s a good program. It works for certain kids. She should be fine as long as she stays self-motivated.”
Even though students will be able to earn high school credits from home, PHS Principal Melvin Nusser said they will still be required to have a two-hour homeroom session each day from Monday through Thursday for the first four weeks of the semester.
There were approximately 25 people who attended the session and watched a demonstration on a math course. Director of Technology Mike Rackler said 60 students already enrolled for online classes before Thursday’s presentation.
Patty Ashcraft said she believed her daughter was going to have to be home-schooled for her freshman year because her daughter, Patricia, was having trouble concentrating in a normal classroom setting. Patricia Ashcraft said she was easily distracted.
Portales High School instructors will offer core classes such as English, math and history at home. Electives such as agriculture, computer science, driver education, performing arts, athletics, consumer science and fine arts will be offered either through evening classes or on the PHS campus.
Kris Crawford said her two teenagers will be taking online courses beginning in the fall. Kaci Crawford, a PHS junior, will be taking two core online classes, while her brother, Lucas, will be taking four online core classes.
“I like the idea of the homeroom sessions,” Kris Crawford said. “I like that they will be able to learn the technology during the sessions to be able to do the classes from home. I like that a teacher will work them through it.”
There was a demonstration which showed a course on the Web site. The instruction is pre-recorded and students can communicate with their teachers through e-mail, via phone or by a campus visit.
State-mandated tests will be completed on campus and teachers may require some tests to be completed on campus.
The homeroom sessions allow teachers to make sure the students are not falling behind. Students will be able to choose from a block of two hours every day from Monday to Thursday. If students are successful after four weeks, they can choose to cut down the hours they have to take homeroom sessions. Nusser also said there’s no maximum to the amount of hours students can be in homeroom sessions.
Rackler said Rep. Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, obtained $50,000 through the Legislature for the program. The program is modeled after Odyssey charter school’s program in Las Vegas, Nev.
Nusser said if the student fails the class after the fall semester they will take the course in a classroom setting for the spring semester.
There were 360 PHS students surveyed, Rackler said, and 82 percent of them said they had a computer at home. In the survey, 66 percent said they had Internet access and 63 percent said they would be interested in taking online courses.
Rackler said there will also be a computer loaner program for students who can’t afford a computer and there will be a computer lab accessible on campus as well.