‘Virtual’ summer school lets students learn at their own pace

Korey Louis and geometry didn’t jibe during his sophomore year at Breaux Bridge High, so the teen is revisiting concepts like translations and reflections this summer, but in a class of one.

Louis is one of about 30 students taking self-paced, online courses in St. Martin Parish School System’s virtual summer school at the district’s virtual technology center in Breaux Bridge.

The school system launched the virtual summer school program in 2012 after years without a summer academic option for students because of low enrollment in the past.

As part of the program, students take online courses taught via lessons recorded by certified teachers. Students can pause and rewind the lessons as they need and move through the content at their own pace.

The program began May 26, and during the first week, the students were required to report to the virtual learning center for their coursework. For the remainder of the program, only middle school students are required to report to the center, while high school students may complete their coursework at home or wherever they want to do their lessons, said Kellie LeBlanc, program supervisor. Students must return to the center to take tests, she said.

The program is a bit different from typical summer school where there’s a teacher working on content for an entire class, LeBlanc said.

“The students are given a prescriptive test on the first day, and their courses are prescribed based on their deficiencies, so they’re not relearning the content that they’ve mastered,” she said. “This way they can focus on the content that they didn’t understand. We can customize lessons for each student based on what they need.”

Sarah Goree, 17, will be a senior in August at St. Martinville Senior High. She’s taking algebra II in summer school.

“I decided to come to summer school so I could take advanced math (next year) because I need it for TOPS,” Goree said in reference to the state-funded scholarship.

Goree said concepts are easier to understand in the online course.

“It’s one-on-one, and I like that,” she said.

Louis said he prefers the virtual option.

“There are less distractions here,” Louis said. “I can go at my own pace, and if I don’t understand, I can rewind the video.”

Before each content lesson, students take a pretest to gauge their knowledge.

“If you pass the pretest, you get to skip the lesson,” Louis said.

The four-week program concludes at the end of June; however, most students may complete their coursework before then, LeBlanc said.

Teachers James Meaux and Noelle Prados work at the technology center during the virtual summer school, which meets from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

On Friday, Prados and Meaux reviewed an algebra I quiz with an eighth-grade student who took the class, which is typically taken by most ninth-graders.

“We’re here to provide assistance to them and tutor them,” Prados said.

During the school year, she and Meaux work with students enrolled in the district’s virtual school program, which is open to students in first through 12th grades. The school system launched its virtual classes in the 2012-13 school year for older students and in the 2013-14 school year to students in grades first through sixth.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.