Naper schools continue push for local online learning options

Naperville District 203 administration building

File Photo

The push by local schools for more learning options outside the traditional classroom will have to continue with one less school district.

Naperville School District 203 and Indian Prairie District 204 had been working with Batavia District 101, Wheaton Warrenville District 200 and Kaneland District 302 to launch a consortium that would create online courses and blended learning options within member districts.

A few days ago, however, the Kaneland School Board agreed to opt out of the consortium for financial reasons.

The consortium called for implementing 10 online classes for high school students starting in the 2014-15 school year. Classes would include algebra, U.S. history, health, consumer economics, government, geometry, English and elective options such as language study (Mandarin Chinese) or a technology course.

Administrators from both Indian Prairie 204 and Naperville 203 had expressed enthusiasm when presenting the proposal to their respective school boards over the last few weeks.

Kathy Duncan, chief academic officer with Indian Prairie 204, said the online high school courses will be a first step to providing more ways for students to learn. Duncan envisions the consortium expanding to elementary and middle schools and including blended learning (use of online lectures or experiments) or flipped classrooms where a student’s homework is to watch a lesson online and perform work based on the lesson in their classroom the next day.

Jen Hester, Naperville 203’s chief academic officer, said she expects the number of online classes available to high school students to expand in the 2015-16 school year as more needs are identified.

The plan was for the five school districts to split the $425,000 startup costs, with each district paying $85,000.

The initial investment included $193,375 for hiring a consortium director (salary and benefits for 1.75 years), $48,750 for administrative support, $50,000 for online content, $30,000 for marketing since the high school course books already are printed, $7,500 for the learning management system and $4,000 for technology for the staff.

Another $84,500 — $18,500 for professional development for teachers and the $66,000 for consultant Evergreen Education Group — was to be divided proportionally between the districts based on student populations.

Classes would be taught by existing teachers from member districts. Because online classes look different from traditional classroom education, teachers would receive professional training. Class sizes would be 26 students.

The plan was to divide teachers and students based on each district’s student population.

Because Indian Prairie has the largest student population, the initial plan called for the school district to provide four teachers and have 208 seats available for Indian Prairie students. Naperville 203 would supply two teachers and have 104 open seats for their students.

With Kaneland bowing out, the numbers likely will be adjusted.

If the consortium continues, over the next two months, various committees will adopt a curriculum, hire a director, select the teachers, set up the technology needed to get the program off the ground and hire a director.

Students from each member district will have the opportunity to enroll in the courses based on procedures each district creates for its students. The consortium will provide guidelines for student enrollment, not requirements.

The remaining districts are expected to approve an intergovernmental agreement finalizing the consortium at their next school board meetings.