West Ada School District builds on Virtual School House success.
More than a decade ago, when parents in the West Ada School District expressed a desire for more learning options to keep students engaged, the district expanded its then-new Schools of Choice.
“We were seeing more families moving to our area from states that didn’t have neighborhood schools,” says Chief Communications Officer Char Jackson. “So, we needed to offer something similar to make those families feel more comfortable.”
Attendance at the Meridian-based school district, which covers six cities, has nearly doubled since then.
Specialty programs such as an art-focused school for elementary students, a middle-school STEM option and a college prep track for high-schoolers, lend an intimate, community feel to a district that now serves 40,000 students.
One of the most popular is the K-12 Virtual School House, an online learning platform launched 10 years ago for children who travel frequently for tournaments, competitions and family activities. During the COVID-19 shutdown, enrollment grew from a few hundred students to nearly 4,000.
“These students need curriculum on the go that they can study anytime, anywhere and still be gaining the knowledge that their peers are gaining in the classroom,” Jackson says.
Despite the logistical freedom, VSH operates just like a traditional facility with scheduled class discussions and lessons.
Recently, the district rolled out a “one-to-one” device initiative that gives all students access to tablets or laptops, depending on grade level.
VSH attendees can also participate in athletic programs, student-run organizations and other extracurricular activities at the physical schools nearest their homes.
“We want our students to have a holistic school experience,” Jackson notes. “We want them to have that social experience that helps them become good neighbors.”
Even after coronavirus restrictions have lifted, the VSH will remain a viable alternative for many students, she says.
“It makes more sense for some families’ schedules. They can make memories with their kids,” Jackson concludes. “They can explore the world around them. Students can go hiking and take their laptops with them and do homework during their picnic lunch.”
Learn more about the West Ada School District.