Our Voice: Online classes and other options for students good, but they still have to work

March 6, 2013 

"You need an education. We have choices."

Maybe that should be the new slogan for Mid-Columbia school districts.

While the traditional classroom setting (think a teacher and a roomful of students -- maybe even a chalkboard on the wall) is what most people associate with the word "school," there are lots of different roads that lead to that elusive diploma.

And more all the time.

At the beginning of the year, Pasco opened its internet-based Pasco Academy of Learning, or iPal.

It is surprising to us that the Pasco district has lost more than 300 students to neighboring districts that offer similar programs in recent years. That's almost half of one of their high school's graduating classes.

Of course, in Pasco at least, there still are plenty of students to go around. The overcrowding issue still is in play.

But what that 300 number tells us is there are many families that for one reason or another seek alternative educational opportunities.

We can see school board member Ruben Peralta's concern about kids who may never actually set food inside Pasco or Chiawana high schools being associated with those schools and potentially reflecting poorly on their nominal alma maters.

No doubt, some of the students (and their parents) who opt out of the classroom are frustrated and at wits end, for whatever reason. It's possible that an online curriculum will sink their boat -- or give them the lifeline they need.

Both are real possibilities.

Most kid probably look at online schooling as easy. After all, they are totally wired in all other aspects of their life.

Grandma might be having trouble with that new tablet she just got, but any of her grandkids -- including the toddlers -- can work the dang thing.

We suspect the online school might come easily for some students while proving to be quite challenging for others.

For example, if you have trouble with time management skills, the internet can be a major distraction rather than a helpful tool.

But if you get bogged down with social aspects of conventional high school, a straightforward piece of hardware might be just the ticket.

It comes to this.

Parents ought to be involved in their children's schooling regardless of how it's delivered. Putting a kid in front of the computer and having that be the end of your interaction won't work. Sending your child to a traditional classroom with no follow-up or follow-through on the parents' part also doesn't cut it.

Although, by the time students get to high school they can, and should, be feeling responsible for their education.

Adulthood is just around the corner -- ready or not.

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