Online High School Can Be a Positive Alternative

Larissa Dominguez was a Bs and Cs student at Alta Loma High School during her freshman year, and while some might have been satisfied with these kinds of results, she was not. Something about the chaotic environment of a classroom didn't agree with her, she explained to Beau Yarbrough of the San Jose Mercury News, which is why Larissa transferred to the Chaffey District Online High School in her sophomore year. It doesn't offer a setting that fits everyone, but Larissa thrived. One year on, and she's a straight-A student taking a full load of classes.

The school's principal Tom Mitchell is careful to draw a distinction between an alternative high school and Chaffey, which he says offers the same kind of coursework but taught in a different way. Those who enroll don't cut ties with the classroom environment entirely. Although all the work is done on the computer, students are still required to show up to the school campus at least once a week, although many choose to come more often. The campus serves as a place where those who are struggling can get guidance from teachers available on site, and those working on group projects can meet with their group members face to face.

The school blends virtual learning, face-to-face instruction and blended approaches with teachers in the classroom while a student is online in the same room.

The program offers all the A through G courses required for college preparedness in California, with the flexibility of allowing students to work at their own schedule with as much supervision and help that they need.

"We already have students in the professional world," Mitchell said, "so nine-to-five (in the classroom) wouldn't work for them."

Mitchell isn't exaggerating. A professional hockey player and a professional dancer are part of the school's student body.

Some students, however, just want to see if they can succeed while trying something different. That was the case for Michael Rayford, who was getting Ds and Cs when he transferred from Los Osos High School. He said he didn't pay attention during class his freshman year and fell behind as a result. His parents agreed when both him and his brother asked to transfer to Chaffey, and the result has been a bump in one whole letter grade.

Tim, whose ambition is to play college football, hadn't been passing the classes required for college admission and plans his time at the online high school to be a one-year detour before returning to a high school with a football program. (School officials are working to make formal arrangements with traditional high schools to enable online students to participate in extracurricular activities on their campuses.)

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