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District 1 considers online schooling

In an effort to curb future losses in enrollment caused by outside online learning programs, Yuma Elementary School District 1 ratified a submission of an application to become a state-approved online instruction provider.

Last week, District 1 sent an application to the Arizona State Board of Education to form the Yuma Digital Learning Academy. It would serve as a separate school in the district with its own set of administration and teachers.

Although District 1 board members said they are wary of starting an online school in the district, they unanimously decided to approve the application in hopes of learning more about the endeavor down the road as plans are become finalized. Board members explained that they were worried that some students may apply for the program who are not self-motivated, thus falling far behind in their classes.

While making a presentation on the topic, Duane Sheppard, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, explained that they are purely in the application stage at this point and said that the application was written in broad terms to allow for flexibility later on.
He added that the state board of education will not make any final determinations on approving providers until a meeting on April 24.

Some of the benefits of having the program, he said, is that full-time online students will be funded at 95 percent of the level that other full-time public school students are. Sheppard added that students across the state will be able to enroll in the academy.

The targeted population for the academy would include parents seeking alternative forms of education for their child, students needing acceleration or remediation, students seeking technology-based instruction, homebound students or home school students.

The district has narrowed down the configuration of the academy into two options: online-only or a blended learning approach. The blended model would allow for 60-74 percent online learning and 30-26 percent “brick and mortar” learning at a district school site with unused classroom space.

Regardless of which route parents decide to have their children take, Sheppard said, students will be required to fulfill the same amount of hours per state law. They will also still be required to take the AIMS test and other proctored exams.

Sheppard said that staff will form individualized learning contracts with students to focus on learning goals specific to each child.

Sarah Womer can be reached at or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.

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