Floyd County Schools is currently accepting a second round of applications for its new online academy, OASIS, as the Aug. 2 launch date approaches.
OASIS — Online Academic Structure for Individual Students — is designed to fulfill the academic needs of non-traditional students in grades 6-12, who may not fit into the normal school schedule and environment.
"We just know options are important," said John Parker, the assistant superintendent and chief academic officer for the system. "We just want to present as many possible options for students as we can."
Since this will be the first year for the program, Parker said 30 students is the maximum enrollment in what is becoming a burgeoning idea in education across the country.
"Everybody's got their own version of this," he said, but it is still a new concept.
Parker said the development of online programs for schools is still in a bit of a “wild west” phase. In forming the foundation of their own program, officials in the local school system have consulted with nearby districts which are looking into online programs or have already started theirs. One of those districts was Forsyth County Schools, which he said was one of the first in Georgia to open an online academy, fostering it along for about a decade and involving over 500 students.
Floyd County Schools already has online programs in place for students who are credit deficient — they have failed classes and need to make up credits. But OASIS targets a different type of student.
The new online academy is focused on being the source of education for students who are on track for graduation — this is the No. 1 on the list of criteria, Parker said.
"They really have to be self-motivated" because "you're not going to have a teacher with you every second of the day to prompt you," he continued.
"This is a situation where, more or less, students are fully online and they are trying to, for whatever reason, get ahead or maybe the … normal, average school day doesn't suit (them)" he said.
Over the last few months, since the first round of applications began being accepted in May, the challenge has been to find the right 30 applicants, Parker said. Because taking all core classes online is difficult — students have to push themselves — administrators want to make sure they have students who will be able to thrive under this educational style, trying to identify them from the pool of applicants. It is more challenging in subjects such as mathematics, he added.
From the initial group, several were picked out, but a number of others fell more in line with needing the online programs to make up credits, Parker said. Administrators of the program went back to the drawing board to “revamp” the application, attempting to obtain more information to more accurately determine if an applicant is a target student for OASIS, he said.
"That's why we opened it back up," Parker explained.
Even if there are only around 15 to 20 students by the start of the first semester, Parker said they will be able to glean valuable feedback on operating the online academy. Then with those students hopefully on a successful track, it will be considered whether or not to add another 10 slots for the second semester.
It may not just be home-schoolers who participate in the program, online academies can be important in the education of students who may be involved with outside activities — athletics or modeling, for example, — which make attending school on a regular schedule undoable.
OASIS students will be enrolled as Floyd County students, assigned to the school they live closest to, and will receive a Chromebook at the start of the school year. Also, they will be able to participate in other school system programs, like extracurricular activities, such as sports or clubs, or spend some of their day at the Floyd County College and Career Academy taking a career pathway.
As far as how students choose to advance in their coursework, “the sky is kind of the limit,” Parker said, with potential for graduating early. It all depends on the course load they can handle and maintaining success in the classes they take. A student could potentially complete all core classes and then take advantage of dual-enrollment, earning free college credits and possibly an associate degree, or more, before graduation.
"We want as many kids as possible in dual-enrollment,” Parker said.
One full-time teacher will use the CCA as the OASIS lab, where students can come to receive assistance during school hours. The teacher also will monitor grades and attendance. If a student has a more specific subject-related question, additional teachers in those areas will help out — they receive extended-day pay for doing so.