The Osseo School District will have an option for full-time online learning for the 2021-22 school year.

The “279 Online School” will offer both live instruction, independent work and also will have its own staff.

Enrollment will be limited to about 2,000 students. A lottery will be used if there are more applications than available space. Mid-year transfers into 279 Online School will be accepted as space allows.

“Osseo Area Schools has been exploring online learning experiences for our students for the last several years,” Superintendent Cory McIntyre said. “(This) is an exciting new opportunity for students who are interested in a fully remote learning program.”

Families interested in enrolling in 279 Online for the 2021-22 school year may apply through the district’s enrollment center by Jan. 15, to receive priority consideration.

The district is currently using its Distance Learning Academy for this school year, which created another option for students and families concerned about going back and forth between learning models due to COVID-19. The DLA will be discontinued at the end of the 2021 school year.

The new program will be open to students inside or outside the district.

Anthony Padrnos, Executive Director of Technology for District 279, said courses will meet all state academic standards and graduation requirements.

With other districts likely to offer similar options, the district felt the need to offer this option starting next fall.

“A full-time option has been an interest by the board and the District Planning Advisory Council,” Padrnos said. “It was also identified as a goal in the district’s strategic work with digital learning. The purpose of a full-time online school is to create additional options for families, expand course offerings for our in-person schools, and create more personalized learning pathways for students.

“We also know that many school districts are looking at continuing full-time online options and several districts already offered this pre-pandemic. This program will allow us to remain competitive with other districts offering online options.”

COMPARES TO CURRENT DISTANCE LEARNING ACADEMY

The 279 Online School will have similarities and differences to the current DLA.

The new option, like DLA, is a 100% remote learning program and will have staff who are specifically dedicated to the online school with a goal of building relationships with students and creating peer-to-peer connections. They also will have opportunities to participate in Minnesota High School League-sponsored activities at one of the district’s high schools (though where students will be able to participate is yet to be determined).

It will differ in that 279 Online will be a regular stand-alone school choice. Students will apply to transfer or open-enroll into the program. Students cannot be dual-enrolled at their previous school.

If a student is currently enrolled in a magnet school, they will give up seat upon enrolling. Secondary students will know their course options before applying. Elementary students will follow the regular district-wide grade-level curriculum.

“In the long term, this has the opportunity to provide more flexibility for student schedules and course offerings,” Padrnos said. “It also has the opportunity to expand pathway programs for all students in our district. For example, career and technical education courses that lead to industry certifications which would become more accessible to all school sites and students from wherever they are learning from.”

STAFFING NEEDS ALSO SIMILAR

The school will be staffed similar to if it was a physical site. The district is tentatively looking at a principal and two assistant principals – one focused on elementary, the other on secondary.

Maple Grove High School currently serves 2,049 students in grades nine to 12 with one principal and three assistants. Teaching, counseling and support staff will be based on final enrollment numbers and student needs.

Padrnos said the district’s experience in distance learning last spring and this year’s DLA program has helped prepare them for a seamless transition.

“We’ve learned through distance learning last spring and continue to refine in the DLA that there needs to be a balance of synchronous (live) and asynchronous (independent) learning experiences for all students,” Padrnos said. “We’ve been learning how to best engage and communicate with families who are in an all-remote environment. We’ve also been learning how to best teach students through an online environment and what digital tools work best in this learning environment.

“The DLA has served as a pilot program to build and refine processes for operations and instruction for an online school.”

Prospective student families can learn more, view 279 Online course offerings and apply at district279.org; search for “279 Online.” Parents with questions should call 763-585-7350.

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