The Carson City School District has announced it will be transitioning all full-time online education for first- through 12th-grade students through one site to be known as the Pioneer Academy starting in the 2021-22 school year.
The new model, creating a consortium of three separate schools – Pioneer Online Elementary, Pioneer Online Middle and Pioneer Online High – will allow families enjoying the remote learning option to remain in the setup five days a week with testing and assessments to be completed online.
Pioneer High School, which has remained a fully accredited physical campus headed by Principal Jason Zona, has seen steady increases in its graduation rates and other successes with its Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates programs providing career options and prevention droputs among students in recent years.
Zona told the board Tuesday centralizing staff and resources now to better assist the kids seemed logical.
“It brought me back to a search-and-rescue saying we utilize,” Zona said. “It’s silly and obvious, but if you always know where you are, you’re never lost. … With COVID, we had no roads, no roadmaps, we had to wing it. We had to find our kids and know how they’re doing.”
Zona said as of Feb. 3, there were 10 different schools in the district providing online instruction to 1,100 students, and while the district has been working in recent months to return students to the traditional model, approximately 14% of Carson City’s students have been engaged in full-time online learning. Administrators expect that number to drop when the new school year begins in the fall.
Meanwhile, under current state law, unless any changes occur in the ongoing legislative session, families can expect their children to be required to complete six full hours per day of instruction online at home, associate superintendent of educational services Tasha Fuson said.
“The plan for us is to replace what used to be Carson Online,” she said, referring to some of the Pearson curriculum that traditionally has been used.
Fuson said families would be committing to the model of instruction with the technology required and ensuring their children are capable of sitting in front of a computer at the correct skill level required for the required number of hours per day. The school also has to prepare for the right staffing required. Fuson also added the district would be reaching out to families who currently who have opted to be homeschooled to apply for the academy.
Trustee Mike Walker, an elementary school principal, suggested daily mandatory check-in times be kept flexible for families that operate on variable schedules if parents or families work late and can’t start helping a child until later in the day, he said.
“I think the real purpose of doing something like this is customer service and families are going through a change right now,” Walker noted. “We want to make this as accessible as possible.”
Trustee Stacie Wilke-McCulloch praised renaming the school and building Pioneer’s positive legacy as an alternative school.
“You’ve had so many successes with the dual diplomas,” she said. “We’ve had the skiers, we’ve had the Millennium Scholarship winners, so to call it an academy, which maybe might have been the piece we were missing before with Pioneer because now it’s, ‘Oh, I go to the Academy.’ ”
The school district will require families to submit an application if they’re interested in having their child attend on or before April 23 for consideration. Applications received after this date will be placed on a waiting list and considered on a first-come, first-served basis. Go to pioneer.carsoncityschools.com for the form or for more information.