virtual learning

Catherine Wheeler

In Cody, Park County School District Number 6 Superintendent Peggy Monteith said with all the uncertainty going on in the world, she was just happy to see kids climb onto a school bus on the first day of school?

"I stopped behind the bus with their red lights on and watched these little, little guys get on the bus with their masks. And I was an emotional mess by the time I got to the school because I was so happy to see them back on buses, but also so sad that they had to get on buses in masks," Monteith said. "What a world! It's turned upside down."

As many schools across our region are turning to distance learning to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus, districts are concerned about how to enforce attendance for remote students.

Regional Educational Laboratory Central

Though most school districts throughout Wyoming have reopened their doors to students in-person, the option to attend class online is widely available - and may even become necessary should the state see significant spikes in cases of COVID-19 due to attending schools. 

A recent study by the Regional Educational Laboratory at Marzano indicates that this switch may be more difficult for some students than others.

Wyoming Virtual Academy

The Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) offers free, public education to K-12 students in the state seeking an alternative to in-person classrooms. And with the pandemic still surging across the country, many Wyoming families are taking advantage.

Arapahoe School District

 

Hundreds of students on the Wind River Reservation will begin the school year online. This week the Fort Washakie, Wyoming Indian and Arapahoe districts, as well as St. Stephen's Indian School, became the first in the state to officially opt for virtual instruction.

Rachel Watson

Due to the pandemic, the University of Wyoming Science Roadshow has reinvented itself. The Science Roadshow made its name by sending UW graduate and undergraduate students to schools across Wyoming to show science to kids. Following the coronavirus outbreak, the program went virtual.

Topics in the Virtual Roadshow include the night sky, how to brew kombucha and how weed killers work.

The lessons cover a lot of the requirements for science education in Wyoming, and team member Liam Guille said the Virtual Roadshow will help teachers.

sheridanwyoming.com

This story is part of a two-part series on how schools across the state are handling the switch to adapted learning.

When Superintendent Craig Dougherty first heard Gov. Mark Gordon's orders extending closures of public places through the end of April, he knew the district would have to switch to virtual learning.

Tennessee Watson

Small schools offer an educational experience that many students appreciate for the close-knit community. But those students can also miss out on the diversity of academic offerings available in larger schools.

Wyoming Department of Education

February 23rd is Digital Learning Day. It’s appropriate then that on Thursday, the House took up Senate File 35 on virtual education. The bill, which updates guidelines for student enrollment in online classes, passed Committee of the Whole in the House, but not without being amended. An appropriation for $250,000 to establish a centralized statewide management system was removed.

Wikimedia Commons

The House Education Committee passed a bill Friday that provides updated guidelines for virtual education in Wyoming.

House Bill 35 sets out how students taking courses online should be enrolled in schools, and how school districts will be funded when it comes to students who split time between different programs.

The bill also changes existing language concerning “distance education” to “virtual education”

Kari Eakins with the Wyoming Department of Education said this could potentially open up more opportunities for students around Wyoming.

Tennessee Watson

Senate File 35 - the Virtual Education Bill - would help improve virtual learning in Wyoming schools, especially in rural areas where hiring teachers in specialized fields can be hard. Districts across the state are already experimenting with online courses, but the Department of Education wants to bring this opportunity to all students. In Rock Springs, Black Butte High School has been blazing ahead.

Lucélia Ribeiro via Flickr Creative Commons

A legislative committee voted Tuesday to draft legislation that would change the way virtual education works in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Education’s Distance Education Task Force met last year and came up with recommendations to expand and improve virtual or online learning in the state. The Joint Education Interim Committee voted to support those recommendations, specifically addressing those that require a change in state law.

Green River Representative John Freeman served on the task force. He says there’s a definite need for classes to be available online.

Aaron Schrank

With about 600 students, Wyoming Virtual Academy—or WYVA—is the largest online learning program in the state. But the only physical trace of it is a nondescript 3-person office building in Lusk.

“This office here, we have our registrar here, our compliancy coordinator, and myself the operations manager,” says Kristen Stauffer.

She points out a map of Wyoming hanging in the office lobby. It’s dotted with pushpins—each representing a recent WYVA graduate.  

Photo by Ikhlasul Amal, Flickr Creative Commons

 

Inside the home of the Williams family, in Centennial, Wyoming, it looks like a cross between a classroom and a call center. Five children, ages six through 16 are wearing headsets and staring at computer screens.

“Mom, what are we doing next?” yells 6-year-old Selah Williams.

“I think we’ll do reading,” says Liz Williams. “Do you want to get your storybook out?”

The Williams kids are full-time students at Wyoming Virtual Academy—or WYVA—one of two statewide virtual public schools in Wyoming. Liz says WYVA allows her to be more hands-on with their learning.