LISA Academy charter school combines e-learning and on-campus activities

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One of Arkansas’ newer schools looks a lot more like a floor of a corporate office building – with 29 workspaces and glass-walled conference rooms – than a traditional campus with halls classrooms filled with desks.

The new LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School, headquartered at 21 Corporate Hill Drive west of Little Rock, opened in August. It is a publicly funded, open enrollment charter school, the eighth and final school in LISA Academy’s growing charter school system.

“It’s a different school environment. I don’t know if you’ve seen a school like this before,” Arkansas Hybrid School principal Aydogan Altun said last week, as he was leading a tour of the great room with the red and gray windows. -cabins with walls.

The new school welcomes kindergarten to grade 12 students who do their homework from home under the direction of their teachers. Each teacher has a booth where he or she sits at the controls of at least three computer screens – with phones, headphones, cameras and electronic notebooks close at hand.

Teachers meet students, teach online, do homework, and grade results, all online.

They teach from lessons created by an outside provider, the Florida Virtual Academy.

And once a week, or at least every two weeks, students attend a half-day of academic and scientific “maker-space” activities at the Little Rock headquarters or at the LISA Academy campus on Holcomb Street in Springdale. . Computers, 3D printers, a laser cutter, drones and ozobots for teaching coding skills are just a few of the equipment in the space that will be opened for community use in central Arkansas. later this year.

The amount of time required on campus for students – which is actually optional in this pandemic school year – is what sets the Arkansas Hybrid School apart from more traditional schools or even other online schools in the state, has LISA Academy superintendent Fatih Bogrek said last week.

Enrollment in the hybrid school last week was 115 students. 320 additional students – who are enrolled in other LISA Academy schools but have chosen not to attend school in person this year due to concerns about covid-19 disease – are also receiving online education by 19 hybrid school staff.

LISA Academy deputy superintendent Luanne Baroni said the Arkansas hybrid school model, with plans for satellite locations soon to be in Jonesboro and Fort Smith, can provide families in different parts of the state a LISA Academy education without a brick and mortar school. Satellite locations for practice projects, clubs, and testing should be rented from locations such as community centers, churches, or libraries.

“The model opens up many opportunities in communities across the state,” said Baroni.

The Arkansas Board of Education earlier this year approved the hybrid school’s plan to grow over time to serve up to 1,050 students. After that vote, charter school planners undertook the $ 1.5 million renovation and furnishings of the two-story Corporate Hill building that served as LISA Academy’s first campus in 2004.

The offices and dining room are yet to be completed at the site before the grand opening ceremony on December 1, Bogrek said.

‘IN PARADISE’

Tennille Winston, a Grade 1 and Grade 2 hybrid school teacher, described last week how her students and their parents connect to grade-level and domain ‘landing pages’, where they can view the curriculum and plans for the day and week, whether for math, English / language arts or other subjects.

In addition, parents and students can from the landing pages book a one-on-one meeting with the teacher. Teachers have office hours during the day and in the evening. The landing pages also include links to Winston’s expectations for the student’s online behavior, such as being on time and wearing appropriate school clothes.

Winston and about half a dozen young children then gathered in one of the four conference rooms. The teacher plotted a large number of “3’s” on an electronic whiteboard at the front of the room. His students – all dressed in the light blue polo tops of the school uniform – did the same at their tables.

“Start at the top,” Winston ordered. “Curve around. We stop. Curve around,” she said.

Heather Gray teaches fifth grade to 35 students, some of whom are enrolled in hybrid school but others are enrolled in other LISA schools but have opted for virtual education this year due to covid-19.

Gray sees all of his students every day through the Zoom meeting platform if not in person. Students and parents can see lessons and homework on landing pages and don’t have to text or email the teacher to find out what to do that day, she said. declared.

Hybrid School lessons are asynchronous, which means they are recorded for viewing at the convenience of the student or family. However, Gray said, she suggests a schedule such as one in which students use Monday for English / Language Arts, Tuesday for Math, Wednesday for Social Studies, and Thursday for Science.

Everything for the week is owed to the teachers on Sunday evening, which is the school’s method of monitoring student attendance. The tests required by the state and the school system for students are also carried out on campus or possibly in satellite centers.

“I’m in Heaven,” said Gray, who previously taught at a LISA Academy campus in Sherwood and is the mother of a third-year hybrid school student.

“I love it. I love technology and art,” she said of the hybrid school. “The beauty of this place allows you to be creative. Instead of being a dictator in my classroom, I try to make it a group effort, and they let me do it here.”

‘THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS’

Lauren Dotson, who has 138 students in her six English, Advanced Placement Language and Journalism classes in high school, said she was drawn to the concept of a hybrid school because her first two years as a beginning teacher have been devoted to an online teaching pandemic.

“I realized I enjoyed teaching virtually,” said Dotson, who gives two hours a week of live instruction for each of his classes. Like her colleagues, she uses the lessons of the Florida Virtual Academy as a basis for this work.

Mery Ritter, mother of fourth grader Amelie Ritter, 9, calls Arkansas’ new hybrid school “the best of both worlds” for her daughter because of its blend of online education and the opportunity to occasionally be with peers.

Ritter called the helpful, kind and approachable school staff to provide assistance.

“I love that Amelie has learned organizational skills and she doesn’t need me as much, but I’m at home and I can guide her. I can see what she’s learning. I see her lessons, and it’s very useful, ”Ritter mentioned.

Ritter also loves that his family can take the stress out of a morning rush to get ready for school.

“Amélie can take breaks at home. She is able to do her cello. She plays the cello. She loves to do embroidery. I am very proud of her. She has grown a lot last year. an incredible fit for her. “

Amélie meets her teacher, Ann Moore, an 18-year-old former international teacher, on campus on Monday and she returns on Thursday for science activities. She said she spends about two hours a morning on her homework.

“The program is absolutely stimulating,” Amélie said of her new school. “But it’s not stressful. It’s hard but you can do it.”

Amélie also said that she had the option of following the teacher’s suggested schedule for doing homework.

“If we don’t want to follow the schedule, that’s fine, but we have to catch up with the work,” she said.

Ritter does not work outside the home, but families with working parents are also accommodated at the hybrid school, Deputy Principal Krystle Hula said.

“We have children who are at home during the day with the grandparents but they work with their parents in the evenings or on the weekends,” Hula said. “We also have a lot of families who were homeschooled families but they really wanted their children to have experience with other students as well as with the enrichment clubs that we offer. With this program, the parent can still be a learning coach for their child, but the child gains experience with real teachers in live sessions and on campus, and with other students. “

Hybrid school is a school where one of the biggest disciplinary issues so far has been students interrupting or interrupting online classes, said fourth-grade teacher Moore. The teacher’s response is to warn the student to stop and if this is not successful, the student’s online voice is cut off by the teacher, who will later talk to the student and the parent about the problem.

LISA Academy board chair Cynthia Dawson said the board was comfortable with the hybrid school training due to demands from parents across the state for LISA academies focused on science, technology and college readiness, and because “our staff are so good at innovation.”

“We want all students to show growth,” said Altun, the principal, of the hybrid school’s mission.


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