During the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning was a must.
As Tiffany Carey puts it, students had to get used to the learning model.
However, for Carey, as Frisco ISD looks ahead to launching a more established, voluntary online learning program, there’s an important change to be had in how online learning is perceived.
“This is a different time,” said Carey, FISD’s director of innovative learning. “This is ‘You get to be a participant of online learning, you get to be a part of this growing community and culture.’”
In August, Frisco ISD will see a district dream become a (virtual) reality: the district will finally get to host its own local remote learning program, and it won’t be tied to a pandemic response.
Even before the state allowed districts to host remote learning programs for a maximum of 10% of enrolled students, Frisco ISD had been ready to launch. The district even had to temporarily walk-back plans for such a program in June as the Texas Legislature wavered on approving online school funding between sessions.
In November, after Texas Senate Bill 15 went into effect allowing funding for district virtual school programs, the wheels began rolling for FISD+, the district’s online learning platform catered specifically towards high school students who want to attend school either fully online or in a hybrid format. FISD opened applications for the program on Dec. 1 with a deadline set for Dec. 17, and families were told that upon qualifying for the program, spots would only be secured through a lottery program.
However, after the deadline passed, the district announced it was extending its application period. In fact, the new application period doesn’t have a set close date--eligible students will be accepted on a first-come, first-d basis until all available spots have been filled.
For Carey, not having to conduct the lottery is a point of excitement, and she adds that moving the deadline gives families more time to consider the option.
“I think ending it before break, we were trying to get ahead of the game, we were trying so hard to make sure that we were able to gauge the interest that people that people would have, and I think it ended up where families just needed more information, and so that’s why we’re still going to keep it open until we can determine what our final numbers will be under that 10%,” she said.
As students meet with counselors to select courses in February, Carey said, the hope is that the process will help students decide if the online option is a good fit.
“We just weren’t exactly sure what to expect,” Carey said, adding that in a previous survey put out by the district, enough families had shown interest in such a program, indicating that the district would have easily hit the maximum enrollment number.
“And so it may be that parents were just waiting until course selection,” Carey said.
As applications have rolled in, Carey said individuals are tending to lean towards the hybrid learning option.
She also said the district has received applications from unenrolled students who live in the district--including those who previously attended FISD middle or elementary schools.
“I am excited to think that they’re wanting to be a part of Frisco ISD and wanting to come back to our instruction after being a part of another program,” Carey said.
The district is preparing for the staffing side of offering the program as well: on Tuesday, the FISD Board of Trustees approved hiring Kiara Henderson, who currently s as associate principal at Wakeland High School, as the district’s new principal of Online Programs. FISD has also begun collecting applications for online training events, which Carey said has garnered a good response.
“We are just feeling confident that we have teachers who are interested, who want to be a part of this and that we are going to be able to successfully implement this first year and look at growth,” she said.
Students won’t know until July if they’ve been approved to join the online platform.
“Our biggest thing is wanting to know we’re not trying to do this to test out the waters, we want people to come, stay, grow with us,” Carey said.