Pomp and (virtual) circumstance
As the school year comes to a close, many students in the Hillsboro School District are looking forward to sleeping in, getting a few months of freedom or maybe working at a local job or volunteering with local organizations. But one graduating Hillsboro senior has been doing all that, and more, throughout the school year. And she's done it all while keeping straight A's in her classes.
Kaitlyn Krautscheid graduated from high school this week, wearing her cap and gown she was valedictorian of her class, but Krautscheid hasn't spent the last four years at any of Hillsboro's four high schools. Instead, she studied entirely online, through the district's virtual school, the Hillsboro Online Academy.
Krautscheid grew up in Hillsboro, attending elementary school and middle school in the Hillsboro School District. But when it came time for high school, Krautscheid opted to do something different, attending the district's online school instead of following her friends to Hillsboro High School.
"I felt like a lot of my time was just getting wasted, and there were just too many distractions," she said. "I felt like I could be doing something better with my time."
Hillsboro Online Academy has about 200 full-time students this year, ranging from elementary school through high school, according to HOA's principal Linda Harrington. Another 300 students in the Hillsboro School District take a handful of courses each year through the online school.
At Hillsboro Online, students receive most of their instruction through the internet, making their own schedule and completing assignments from home, though the school does maintain a physical location in the former Peter Boscow Elementary School building, 452 N.E. Third Ave., in downtown Hillsboro.
"We have kids that we never see ... (and) we also have kids that we see all the time," Harrington said. "We are a hybrid blended program. We totally believe in face-to-face instruction, but we are also an online school. So we try to meet the individual needs of all our students that come to us."
Harrington said the school works for many different types of students, including those with medical needs, those with many extracurricular activities and those "like Kaitlyn" who have jobs and want to volunteer, allowing them some flexibility in their day-to-day lives.
"She's delightful," Harrington said of Krautscheid. "She's very interested in a lot of different things. I feel like she's the kind of person that walks into a room and you immediately are best friends. She reaches out to those people around her. She's just super involved."
While attending high school online, Krautscheid has volunteered tirelessly, maintained a job at American Family Insurance for the last two-and-a-half years and has traveled to many different countries with her family. Krautscheid recently moved to Banks with her family and her two pet goats, but she has still found time to volunteer, previously with the after-school program BLAST — Bringing Leadership, Arts & Sports Together — which combines homework help with recreational activities and arts and crafts.
"Volunteering has always been a big thing in my family," Krautscheid said. "I just want to give back because it's just something I'm passionate about."
Krautscheid also volunteers with the Hillsboro Interact Club — sponsored by Hillsboro Rotary — and has coached several robotics teams across the district. She helped create and coach robotics teams at Farmington View Elementary School, South Meadows Middle School and Brookwood Elementary School.
Krautscheid has been attending Hillsboro Online Academy since her freshman year. She said she was looking for something different, and wanted more freedom in her schedule.
"It's been amazing," she said. "I have done probably close to 300 volunteer hours because I have time to go and do that."
Online high school offers plenty of flexibility for students, but that independence means students must be responsible for their output. In Oregon, virtual schools have struggled to graduate students on time.
Hillsboro Online Academy seniors graduated Tuesday, June 5. The school graduated 20 seniors, including Krautscheid.
The Hillsboro School District has an average graduation rate of 84 percent across its four traditional high schools. But Hillsboro Online Academy's graduation rate is the lowest in the district, graduating only 59 percent of its students on time last school year, according to the Oregon Department of Education.
While online schooling may not be the best fit for some, Krautscheid said attending school online has worked well for her.
She graduated top of her class and plans to attend Oregon Institute of Technology in the fall studying diagnostic imaging. She hopes to become an X-ray or radiology technician.
"It's been really good and I feel like it's really prepared me for the next steps in my life," she said. "You have to decide when to get your work done. You learn a lot of time management skills and how to study effectively (because) a lot of the time, you have to choose to do your school work when you could be doing other things."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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