Starting this fall, students and teachers at Churchill County Middle School will have an opportunity to approach education in a new, contemporary way as blended learning classrooms are approved for implementation.
The Churchill County School Board authorized a pilot program Jan. 24 to provide students hands-on collaborative projects and individual-paced learning.
The program was proposed in November by Principal Amy Word and technology coach Nathan Waite, with aspirations for students to showcase skills their own way to succeed.
“There hasn’t been many projects like this in Churchill County, but areas surrounding us are doing it,” Waite said. “We want to be on the forefront to offer this opportunity to students.”
The Blended Learning Community (BLC) is predicted to instruct more than 120 students in the first year from sixth to eighth grade, starting with two or three teachers, said Word. The program is aimed to combine traditional classroom methods with online digital media to help students receive a personalized education, including an expansion in electives.
The program welcomes any student interested and is open to all learning levels. Word said teachers were hired internally to preserve student population and will be teaching all day to provide flexibility to students.
“We want to capture all students and build interest,” she said. “In the beginning of this, we are anticipating a lot of community building, achieving goals and deadlines.”
Trustees of the board expressed their support for the new program. Superintendent Sandra Sheldon said due to a fortunate year with budgets, the district could focus on classroom modifications to complement blended learning environments, estimated under $40,000.
“This is great for three different grades,” Sheldon said. “Each student will be on their own path and there will be a variety.”
Students will soon be able to apply to the Blended Community Learning and submit why they’re interested in participating.
Applications are expected to overflow and with that, a lottery system is prepared to launch during the time of submissions, Waite said. He surveyed 167 students within the school about learning preferences and majority of the votes placed in either project-based learning or learn with computer and teacher mix.
“I think this is going to be very popular,” said board President Clay Hendrix.
“Everyone learns at a different pace,” said Trustee Matt Hyde. “This is something we need.”
Currently, students and teachers are practicing another form of blended learning by using Edgenuity, a software program providing students flexibility in their learning, and helps teachers identify strengths and weaknesses to further personalize the student’s learning process. The software will continue to be used at the launch of the BLC program.
Along with training in Edgenuity, teachers are preparing for the BLC launch in other ways; the selected team is scheduled to travel with Waite and Word at the end of the month to O’Callaghan Middle School in Las Vegas, which provides blended learning, to gather teaching tips and advice.
CCMS sixth grade teacher Maureen Park said she’s excited to distribute blended learning in classrooms.
“I love facilitating and motivating kids,” she said. “They always go beyond my expectations. I’m halfway prepared taking on this adventure.”
Waite said the application will be available once an official date is set. “I’m excited to see who applies,” he said. “We’ve been anticipating this and waiting to go forward.”
The next step is to educate the public about the benefits of BLC; parents of potential candidates are invited to public meetings tentatively scheduled Feb. 6-8, at CCMS and Numa Elementary School.