As many as 160 expected to sign up for program

From technological advances in the classroom to healthier options on lunch menus, Brian Burke has seen plenty of changes during his 20 years in public education.

The Forest Grove High School assistant principal has watched the schools he’s worked in flourish, he said, because district officials have been proactive in taking steps toward meeting students’ needs.

Burke recently noticed a trend toward requests by students and parents for more online classes. With that interest as a jumping-off point, last year Burke — with the support of teachers and district staff — helped launch a new online class curriculum “on a small scale” at FGHS.

With the first day of fall classes set for Sept. 3, officials expect enrollment in online courses — which now extend district-wide — to reach as many as 160 pupils. At FGHS, about 150 students will likely enroll in either the full-time online program; a blended program of some online classes and some on-campus classes; or a blend or original credit classes and credit recovery, said Connie Potter, the district’s chief of staff.

Another seven or eight are anticipated at the K-8 level.

“Students don’t come in cookie-cutter shapes, and neither should the curriculum provided for them,” said Potter. “It’s our responsibility as leaders in the community to understand that education is not one size fits all — and to provide students with options that extend beyond the standard classroom.”

Across the district, course content varies according to age, student interest and grade level. For those who want to take a foreign language class besides the Spanish and French classes at the high school, for instance, Italian, German, Japanese and Chinese are available through a web-based program called “Odysseyware.”

Classes in most of the school’s subjects are available in an online version, and teachers monitor each subject and grade level by handling grading and testing issues. Online pupils are allowed to participate in any of their home school’s extracurricular activities.

Burke is the program’s adviser, available to speak with families about what works for them.

Among the reasons parents and students list for taking online classes is the program’s flexibility for accommodating student schedules. Should a student need an extended amount of time off to travel for a parent’s job or to go on vacation, the online option will keep them from missing homework assignments, alleviating the potential for summer school or having to repeat a class.

Also, online classes “are a great option for those who want to graduate ahead of their deemed graduation date,” said Burke, who believes students with a strong parent bond or students who are good at working independently have the highest chance for success in the program.

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