With many students going back into classrooms after more than a year of pandemic disruptions, some students in the St. Michael-Albertville School District can still choose the option to take some or all of their classes online through STMA Online. The program offers online classes for students from kindergarten through 12th grade with STMA licensed teachers.

After the registration deadline of Sept. 1, almost 100 students have enrolled in STMA Online. According to STMA Online Principal Mark Jansen, they never had an estimated enrollment number for the new option.

“Honestly I didn’t have a number in mind because we’re so new I didn’t have any baseline numbers or data to go off of. We were just forming this program to allow our families in our district to have options for online distance learning,” Jansen said.

The majority were already STMA students, but some who have enrolled are from out of the district and others are from homeschooling families.

“Many districts in the state aren’t offering distance learning or online options for students, especially in the elementary level, and we are,” Jansen said. “We are pretty proud in the fact that we are offering such a good option for families K-12.”

He did not know other districts did not offer the option until families called to say they were happy that STMA offers a K-6 online program.

STMA Online courses were created with Edmentum Courseware, which made a curriculum for STMA its licensed teachers. The teachers shaped the curriculum provided by Edmentum to STMA standards to go with the traditional in-person classes.

Jansen said it will be different than the online distance learning from the prior year that forced students to learn through virtual meetings, and instead allows seventh- through 12th-grade students to learn more independently and with flexibility.“One of the reasons we chose to allow this flexibility was because some of our students, especially last year, found full-time jobs or close to full-time jobs,” Jansen said. “So we wanted to give the students the flexibility to still be able to work and help provide for their families or themselves along with doing school.”

These students may choose to learn fully online, or do a mix of part-time online and still take some traditional classes in-person. The classes will count the same on a transcript as regular in-person classes, with students receiving a letter grade. No difference between an in-person class and an online class will be made on transcripts so future colleges will not be aware of the difference as well.

Kindergarten through sixth-grade students will still have structured days with lesson plans and hands-on material that will need to be picked up and dropped off by parents. They will also participate in virtual morning meetings to allow for socialization that might otherwise be absent from online learning. According to STMA Online, the structure for kindergarten through sixth grade starts from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will start with a morning meeting, time to touch on each academic subject, a lunch and recess break built-in, ending with a closing recap and time to finish daily tasks.

Students will have to log into their courses at least once a day. It is recommended that one to two activities are completed each day per course to stay on pace with their classmates in traditional classrooms. If absences or problems with the Internet prevent a student from logging in during the day, students may call Jansen and the absence would be entered into the school system just like any other student in the brick and mortar setting.

Students can contact their teachers throughout the day with direct messaging, by email or phone. Teachers will respond to the students quickly when they can. Kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers will also have open office hours at the end of each school day.

Families can register for the winter trimester at the end of November for students to start at the beginning of December.

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