The South Dakota Virtual School is a collection of online classes from different vendors. The state Department of Education approves each course, and school districts can use them to offer their students more flexibility. The Wessington Springs District has done it for years. Now, it’s seeing increased interest due to the pandemic.
Charlotte Mohling facilitates the Wessington Springs Cyber School. She says it started in 2013 with a student’s passion for rodeo.
“We were contacted by both the state of South Dakota Department of Education and the DIAL virtual school to see if we were interested in offering options to a student who wanted to take time off from school during the school year and travel around the country barrel racing,” she remembers.
The superintendent agreed to do a pilot program. In the first year, four students enrolled. Last year, 47 students from around the state used the district’s program. Principal Jason Kolousek expects even more this fall.
“I would say it’s gonna at least double,” he says.
Kolousek believes the increase is a product of the pandemic.
“They don’t want to go back to school, and then have to go remote like we were in the spring, and then back and forth. This is known. They know this is what they’re gonna do for the whole year.”
The program was limited to middle and high school students, but classes for elementary students are being offered for the first time this fall. Charlotte Mohling says students can work through material at their own pace. If they need extra help, she says they can schedule one-on-one time with a licensed teacher.
“I believe no two students are alike, and we need to provide educational options that meet the needs—whether they be social needs, emotional needs, intellectual needs,” she says.
Registration for the Wessington Springs cyber school is open until September 17th.