SK picks new home-school program

The Explorer Academy, a home-schooling program operated by the South Kitsap School District, has selected an on-line curriculum to bolster the school’s current offerings.

K12, an on-line curriculum operated out of Virginia, offers complete courses to students through a Web site, along with materials they receive in the mail.

Nationwide, K12 — in operation since the 2001-02 school year — provides curriculum to 25,000 students. It operates 25 state schools and many other inter-district programs like the one coming to South Kitsap.

Currently students across Washington can join the K12 program through the Steilacoom School District for students in kindergarten through the eighth grade, or the the Monroe School District for students in the ninth and 10th grades.

Starting in the fall, South Kitsap will offer the program to students within the district in kindergarten through the eighth grade. High School students can still work through the Explorer Academy with the already-implemented curriculum.

Next year’s kindergarten through eighth grade students at Explorer will take up to four K12-based courses and use Explorer’s own curriculum for the remaining classes.

Oster said the program is intended to expand the school’s offerings, drawing in more students, especially the 145 home-school students in South Kitsap currently working outside of the public school system.

Oster said the district signed up for 100 students through the K12 curriculum, in hopes that it will gain 40 students by this fall through several outreach programs. The schools will advertise the program through mailings and information sessions throughout the summer.

Programs like this, Oster said, provide more flexibility and options for students that want an alternative to the typical public school.

“I think this kind of program reaches beyond our brick-and-mortar schools,” Oster said. “I’m excited about it because it does provide options for kids.”

Oster said he chose the curriculum because it doesn’t merely teach through the computer. “It’s not only an on-line curriculum, it also has a hands-on curriculum,” he said.

After examining several programs, Oster found few offered hands-on materials for students to use.

The program guides students at their own pace through each subject. Parents can keep track of the progress of the students, listing everything from how many assignments completed to the projected end-date of a unit.

Students then meet with Explorer Academy teachers periodically to go over assignments.

Within each lesson, students follow an online lecture, with visual and audio guidance. In a sample provided by K12, students can see how to balance equations with a visual example set on a scale illustration. Each assignment includes instructions for assignments done away from the computer.

Superintendent Bev Cheney is excited to take on the program, and she said other districts are looking into it as well.

“I think other districts will be watching how we do with this,” Cheney said.

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