DELPHOS — Some students may find a traditional classroom setting isn’t conducive to their learning process. Those students may opt to leave a school district for the virtual classroom experience, taking their state-funding dollars with them. Delphos City Schools has found a way to keep those students and the state money in the district and attract others from neighboring schools with its new Delphos Digital Academy.
In its freshman year at Jefferson High School, the academy has 40-plus students who can use the library as a classroom while they take online courses with certified teachers through the Tri-Rivers Educational Computer Association (TRECA) or they can stay at home and take the classes.
Delphos Digital Academy student Kenneth Hamp works on an English assignment in the Jefferson High School Library. Hamp is using the program to recover credits he lost as a junior.
Chris Sommers supervises the students while they are in the library and tracks those taking the classes from home. He has already seen one huge success. Kenneth Hamp, from a neighboring district, failed all his courses his junior year. Since starting at the DDA in August, he is close to finishing three of his failed classes and is on track to graduate on time.
“Kenneth is motivated and working really hard to catch up,” Sommers said. “He is seeing success where he didn’t have it before.”
Hamp is excited about his progress.
“I thought I was doing better than I was my junior year,” Hamp said. “When I failed everything, I had a difficult outlook. I want a diploma, not a GED.
“I’m working at my own pace and I don’t have to worry about a class for a whole school year. I can work on the assignments for one class until I’m done and I can take the tests while it’s still fresh. It has snowballed on me. I’m making a lot better progress than I expected.”
Hamp’s success has also made his home life better.
“I lost my parents’ trust when I failed all those classes. I had told them I was doing OK and obviously I wasn’t,” he said. “Now I’m staying in school and I have a schedule. It’s a lot lighter at home. I have regained some of their trust and it feels a lot better. A huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders and I’m going to keep trying to succeed and keep their trust. I have definitely learned that you get out of this what you put in.”
Hamp has also been looking to what he’s going to do after he gets his diploma.
“I am looking at continuing my education, perhaps taking college courses online as well,” he said.
Edinger is pleased to keep students in the district.
“We were watching some of our kids leave because they aren’t traditional students,” he said. “They were enrolling in online offerings like the Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy (OHDELA), Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) and the West Central Learning Academy (WCLA). Some even told us if we weren’t going to offer virtual, they would leave. It’s like bringing our kids into the world and then someone else finishes raising them. Now we can keep those kids in the district and fulfill our obligation to help them get a Jefferson diploma.”
Sommers is learning along with his students.
“This is new to all of us,” Sommers said. “The biggest problem we’ve had is computer glitches because we didn’t know exactly what we needed. TRECA has been right there with us helping us work those out. I have been really impressed. We can meet almost any type of situation and find a way to make it work.”
Students can also use an online program called Illuminate to talk to their teachers if they need additional help. Teachers can use remote assistance to connect with a student’s computer and assist with the learning process.
The DDA isn’t just for those seeking something other than a classroom setting. Due to recent budget cuts, many elective and advanced courses have been cut at the high school. Students who would like to earn an honors diploma can take the extra required courses through the academy during a study hall.
Students in the DDA can also participate in school activities and extra-curriculars.
The DDA is operating in the black, bring more than $80,000 to the district that would have gone to other schools or digital academies through the open enrollment of students. While that is a nice bonus, Edinger said, it’s not always about the money.
“It’s about the kids. We owe them every opportunity to be successful and prepared for what they will do after their high school career,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. I think we’ll eventually see a blended system with classroom and online courses offered at all schools. We’ll be a little ahead on that curve.”