D27J launches new blended academy

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To help students ease into the virtual world of education, District 27J is offering a blended online and classroom academy.

“We understand that the concept of online learning is a tremendously popular choice for students and their parents,” said School District 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler. “We’re happy that BOLT Academy will provide that flexible, technology-rich learning environment for students but also provide personalized learning assistance from our highly-qualified staff.”

Brighton Online Learning for Tomorrow (BOLT) Academy will enroll ninth- through eleventh-grade students who will be required to report to class four days a week for three-hour sessions and to complete independent work online.

“This concept really builds on what different experiences students need in the 21st century,” said Jennifer Alexander, learning coach and principal at BOLT Academy. “Our goal is to create an innovative environment for all students. We’re working to not target a particular group or particular background.”

The academy is not meant to target students at risk of not graduating, she said, but to target students who need flexible schedules either because they work, they have family commitments or for students who need to go at a faster or slower pace than the traditional classroom.

While she was researching the online school concept, Alexander said she found “often students and parents choose online courses or schools because they think it’s easier. But nine out of 10 times, it’s harder because (the students) need self-discipline.”

There will be two full-time learning coaches at the academy, which will be housed inside the Brighton Learning and Resource Campus, 1850 E. Egbert St. in Brighton.

Alexander said the district will hire four to seven content virtual teachers — the amount depending on enrollment — which is capped at 50 for the 2013-14 school year.

“We chose to start small because we want to get it right; we want a quality program,” she said.

The academy will be open four days a week for in-class sessions — students can have access to the computer lab as well.

Having a classroom structure as part of the program is important for the district, Alexander said, because “we want kids to have the social interaction they miss with online programs and the support from teachers and adults.”

Students will eventually be able to graduate from the academy.

Tuition is free, and enrollment requirement information is available at www.sd27j.org.

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