Owatonna moves forward with online school plans

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Valentina Contreras

Owatonna Public Schools moves forward with planning an online school

Valentina Contreras, Writer

Some families have found virtual learning a really big success, which is why Superintendent Mr. Jeff Elstad and Director of Teaching and Learning Ms. Michelle Krell are working on making an online school possible in future years.  

Owatonna Public Schools is preparing an application to become a supplemental and comprehensive online school, meaning that anybody in the state of Minnesota would be able to enroll in the program. The current virtual learning program is very structured, it is all following a time schedule that begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. Ms. Krell said, “We’re gonna have families that really have enjoyed doing online learning.” This was the main incentive for deciding to move forward with this process. 

So far 39 online schools have been accredited by the state of Minnesota. There is a 90 day process for a district to get approved for an online school, and Owatonna has just started this process. There is another Big 9 school participating, but Owatonna would be the only one in the area. The funding for the online program would work the same way in-person funding works. The district would be able to provide technology and resources to students participating. This online program would be very appealing for homeschooled families, neighboring districts and those who work better virtually. Owatonna online students would be able to participate in activities, such as sports and clubs, unless they are also enrolled in another charter, district or academy. By being full online virtual students would be able to enroll in courses that are not physically offered.

Some students have discovered that learning online allows them to be the best student they can be for many different reasons. I feel that providing more options for our students will engage more students in deeper ways moving forward.”

— Supt. Jeff Elstad

Some students perform their best when they are provided the option to personalize their learning structure, students will be able to work at their own pace while still having big deadlines to stay on track. Supt. Elstad said, “The pandemic has presented many challenges, but has also opened up new ideas and ways of doing things. We feel that having a fully-online option for school allows us to further personalize learning for students. Some students have discovered that learning online allows them to be the best student they can be for many different reasons. I feel that providing more options for our students will engage more students in deeper ways moving forward.” 

Parents can expect that the online program will be the same excellence that is aspired in regular classrooms. Freshman Ava Caroll has enjoyed virtual learning and believes she has performed better than in person. Caroll said,  “It is better because I can go at my own speed.” This would be a very big decision for students to make, they would have to think about which learning option benefits them the most. Junior Ande Storm said, “I might consider it but it would take a long time since there are quite a lot of variables and pros/cons to both online and in-person schooling. Tempting at the very least.” 

The district has reached out to Owatonna staff, and they have expressed interest to teach.  The workload will be similar to a regular classroom, however, online learning requires students to take more initiative and self-motivation to complete their work and engage with their instructors. This would start to take place in the 2021-2022 school year, if it gets accepted.