Clovis Unified's New Online School

September 1, 2009 7:51:00 PM PDT
Dozens of Valley students are attending class without ever seeing their teacher's face. Clovis Unified is chartering a new online school where students use computers instead of a classroom.Teacher Phyllis Johnson is talking to her art history students online. After teaching for 40 years she never imagined teaching in a cyber classroom.

Johnson said, "It's easier to pull up images from history on your computer than it is to do studio art, drawing."

Johnson says one benefit is instant communication, but relying on technology can be a challenge.

"I'm learning as well. What am I learning? I'm learning the computer ... laughter," said Johnson.

Here's how it works ... at the Clovis Online School ... teachers and students communicate through interactive video chats, and online forums. Principal Rob Darrow says students work at their own pace and have a paperless trail of stored assignments.

Darrow said, "They click send when they finish with the assignment the teacher grades it online and they can see all the work there."

Darrow says the school is expanding ... they've enrolled nearly 50 ... 9th and 10th grade students from Fresno County and surrounding counties who can graduate from the school.

"They are students who feel like they don't fit into a comprehensive school very well. They are students who want to work on their own," said Darrow.

Students like accomplished amateur BMX Racer Austin Hiatt. The former Sanger High School student has raced in 26 states and Canada ... because he spends so much time on the road he needs a flexible schedule.

"This last Feb I missed a complete week at a time for one event," said Hiatt.

Now he feels he can get a better education because he can research assignments and participate in class without physically being there.

"It's really cool you can log on anywhere in the world and do you work anywhere at any time," said Hiatt.

Now Valley students have high school experience right at their fingertips.

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