By Heidi R. Kinchen
Florida Parishes bureau
August 11, 2012
HAMMOND — Tangipahoa Parish schools will implement virtual learning programs for students throughout the parish this school year, but that doesn’t mean students will be sent home with a laptop and forgotten, district officials said.
The School Board’s Hammond Delegation, a group of board members representing the Hammond area, held a meeting Wednesday at the city’s Tangipahoa African-American Heritage Museum to answer parents’ and community members’ questions about the proposed e-learning program and its effects on the city’s Crystal Street campus.
The Crystal Street school, originally designed as a boot camp of sorts for students with disciplinary issues, will be open and running in 2012-13, but under a different format, Assistant Superintendent Lionel Jackson said.
Students in sixth through 12th grades will have the option of either taking their classes online with weekly face-to-face meetings with teachers or attending classes on-site during regular or evening hours, he said.
“But to dispel the rumors,” Jackson said, “no, we are not talking about giving these kids a laptop and sending them home to leave them unattended.”
Each of the district’s schools will have a virtual learning facilitator, and participating students will be required to check in at least once per week with either their home-based school or the Crystal Street campus, he said.
The change in approach is necessary because the alternative program school, and its PM School counterpart, “were failing schools,” Jackson said. “They worked for a while, but then ceased to be effective.”
Five years of data showed the campus simply wasn’t getting results in terms of increasing graduation rates or helping struggling students get back on track, Chief Academic Officer Theresa Hamilton said.
Virtual learning is more interactive and will stand a better chance of holding students’ attention, Jackson said.
The e-learning opportunity will be available for expelled, homeschooled and medically homebound students, he said.
Of the 180 students who failed to complete the alternative program at the Crystal Street campus last year, 165 will return to their home-based school with a clean slate, Jackson said. The remaining 15, because of the severity of their disciplinary issues, will return to the Crystal Street campus, he said.