Skip to content

Episode 73: Principals Prepare to Open New Virtual Elementary, Middle and High School for 2021-22 School Year

Jordan School District is preparing to open three new schools in the 2021-22 school year. Kings Peak High School, Kelsey Peak Middle School and Rocky Peak Elementary School are part of the Jordan Virtual Learning Academy, giving students more options in their education and the way in which they learn.

On this episode of the Supercast, we hear from principals of the three new virtual schools. They explain how the schools will work, who can enroll and how this personalized learning will focus on the individual student. Find out how the Jordan Virtual Learning Academy is different than anything we’ve done before.

If you have questions regarding the new schools please call 801-567-8131 or visit connect.jordandistrict.org.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It's a very exciting time here in Jordan School District as we prepare to open three unique new schools for the 2021-22 school year. Kings Peak Virtual High School, Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle School and Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School are part of the Jordan Virtual Learning Academy, which will give students more options in their education and the way in which they learn on this episode of the Supercast we hear from principals of the three new virtual schools. They explain how the schools will work, who can enroll and how this personalized learning will focus on the individual students find out how the Jordan Virtual Learning Academy is different from anything we've done before.

With the three newest principals in Jordan School District, we have three administrators who have just been appointed to be principals of our online schools that we'll be starting in the fall. So let's introduce these three new principals, and then let's talk about their schools and how you can get signed up. If you're interested, Ross Menlove, Principal of Rocky Peak Elementary School. Tell us about you a little bit.

Ross:
I'm Ross Menlove and I'm excited to be the new principal at Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary. My background is elementary. I've taught first grade, third grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, and also been an instructional coach. And I've been working a lot with the teachers this year to ensure our online program that we're currently doing. It's very successful and it's meeting the needs of students and helping kids progress in their learning.

Superintendent:
We also have Spencer Campbell who will be the Principal of Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle School.

Spencer:
Hi, my name is Spencer Campbell. I'm super excited to get this program started for the virtual school. My background is in middle school, taught seventh grade and ninth grade, and obviously have a background in technology and what that it looks like for students at home and at school. We're super excited to get this started.

Superintendent:
And then we have Ammon Wiemers who is the principal of Kings Peak High School.

Ammon:
I'm Ammon Wiemers, Principal at Kings Peak Virtual High School. Prior to that, I was working as the administrator of the online program for the district. And my background is in a high school English. And so I taught at West Jordan High School for nine years.

Superintendent:
We're really excited to have all three of you on board, moving this forward. It's a big leap for us to move to having three separate online schools. Now you all fall under the Jordan Virtual Learning Academy, but they are individual schools and are hiring right now. I want to start with talking about what the difference will be between these online schools and maybe the online learning that was experienced in the spring and through this year for those students who chose that option. Let's start with you Ross.

Ross:
This upcoming virtual elementary is going to be pretty awesome because it's going to be very student centered and student specific. As parents consider what they want to look for in this program in this virtual dimension, they're going to be able to choose between two different types of curriculum. Currently all of our online program is synchronous, live with the teacher. What we're going to be offering next year is asynchronous, meaning that the student can log in and they can complete their coursework for that day, any time, any place, any pace. And it's gonna be very individualized for that student. So that's the asynchronous option.

The synchronous option is similar to right now. They're gonna have a live teacher, but the difference is going to be those teachers are going to be a lot more strategic in the activities they have to do. They are a lot more intentional in their planning and in their instructional design because they have experience now. They know what works, they know what doesn't work.

And so we'll be able to offer those two options if I may put in a plug out there. The wonderful thing about this for elementary is all of our online instruction, all that core instruction, those students need to be successful as fully online.

We're also going to have an option where kids can come in a couple of days a week at our satellite location to come and do some project-based hands-on learning with certified teachers and also receive some extra help if a student struggles with a math assignment that day, or they need some help with their reading, they're going to be able to come in and have a live teacher, hands-on face-to-face right there with them to be able to provide that instruction at the elementary level.

Superintendent:
That's one of the big questions that we get is how synchronous this will be and what the alternatives will be. It is a good reminder that this is not pandemic learning. We do have an in-person component now. Will that in-person component be required or will it just be an option?

Ross:
The in-person requirement is fully optional. We're guaranteed through our curriculum that every student has the core instruction and the learning that they need to be successful by fully being online or ensure that they have what they need to be able to progress in their learning and go to the next grade level

Anthony Godfrey:
Can you describe for everyone, what you anticipate class sizes will look?

Ross:
The wonderful thing about this is that our class sizes are going to be very similar to our in school class sizes. That means that the teacher will have the time and intention they need to dedicate that personalized learning to each and every student, able to work together as a team to make sure that every student is progressing in learning. If a student is doing the asynchronous option, the wonderful thing is they're going to have a licensed and certified teacher who can modify their instruction each and every day, to make sure that student gets exactly what they need. If they're doing the synchronous learning, live with the teacher, that teacher's going to build up and automatically respond and have live feedback to give that student the feedback they need to progress in their learning and to ensure they progress and do their best.

Superintendent:
What's exciting for me is the number of options. There's an in-person component. If you'd like, it can be asynchronous. In other words, it can be time-specific or you can have a high level of flexibility. So I think this can meet a lot of needs that maybe have even emerged as a result of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, I think for some people online education would have sounded like an option that was not right for their child. But sometimes when you try it, you realize this is actually working really well. I know you've seen some great success at the elementary level, even just this year. Can you talk about that?

Ross:
Our current elementary program, the current online program, the wonderful thing about it is it's very student centered. Each and every day, we have teachers that are creating content and creating activities that are directed for that student. So the wonderful thing about our online program, it's not a pre-determined curriculum that is in essence, designed by a company. This is teachers in Jordan School District, working with Jordan School District students, creating very specific content and curriculum and activities that are directed to them. These teachers, who know these students, who build these relationships virtually, are able to direct that content right for that student, to be able to provide that student what they need. They don't have to go through some algorithm or anything like that. We have the live teachers that are behind the scenes, creating this content, ensuring the student has a path of learning so that they're going to be successful.

And the great thing about online is this year is we've shown that kids and teachers can build very effective and very connected relationships. Everyday I have teachers that reply back to me when I asked them about how things are going. They mentioned how they have even better relationships with some of the students. And also, especially with the families, because the parents are right there. The parents are watching some of the sessions. The parents are involved in their homework. Teachers have great relationships with the parents because it's more of all the stakeholders and all the parties are coming together for the success of the child. It's not just the teacher being in a classroom with the student is the teacher, the parent and the child all coming together virtually to ensure that that student is being successful and making those modifications and shifting on the fly  to ensure that kid has what they need to be successful.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's exciting. Spencer, let's talk about Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle School. What can a parent expect from Kelsey Peak Middle?

Spencer:
So a few things they can expect are flexibility and predictability. And that's something that Ammon will talk about as well with the high school. But the idea is that kids have a flexible option. Currently, we have students in a variety of situations throughout the District. So for example, we have a student that has high anxiety and coming to school is difficult for them. Or maybe they want to take their core classes online and they want to take their extracurricular or their elective classes at the school. They have that option. But the predictability part is they're going to have certified teachers teaching those classes, whether the student attends live or watches a recording after the fact. They have that ability to take those classes when they can, or when they fit into their schedule.

Superintendent:
The way that it had to be structured this year at the secondary level made it impossible for synchronous learning to be available because teachers who were teaching online were serving students who maybe did have a partial schedule or they were teaching students from a number of different schools. So creating a schedule districtwide just was not possible. The advantage here with Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle is that we actually will be offering synchronous learning for all of our classes. Is that correct?

Spencer:
That is correct. In a sense, if they take the full online option and they have their classes full, we're building a schedule out right now. The nice thing about that is those classes will be recorded. So students that are in a partial or hybrid schedule at their home school can come back and watch those recordings later. And they would get all the same interactiveness as the kids asking questions that are in that virtual option.

Superintendent:
So if they're full at Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle, that means they can have a completely synchronous schedule, but if you're trying to coordinate with a local school that might not match up, so they can watch the video and they can interact with the teacher. There'll be office hours and availability from the teacher.

Spencer:
Absolutely. That's a great question. One of the difficulties with the middle school is we have 13 middle schools to coordinate schedules and classes. And so you're correct in the way that stated if a student is taking virtual classes, they will have synchronous learning all day long. If they're taking a partial or a hybrid schedule, they will be able to watch those recordings after the fact.

Superintendent:
And I know we've described this a couple of different ways, but I think it's an important point to distinguish this from the pandemic learning experienced in the spring and the fall. There will be a full video class for every course that a student would normally be taking that they can watch where that has not been the case this fall, simply because of the logistics.

Spencer:
Correct every recording of the secondary level, and I know Ammon will talk about it too, is going to be recorded. So when the teacher is giving the initial instruction, whether that's at the synchronous moment or the night before that they're sharing with students, every lesson will be recorded so students will have the opportunity to go back and watch and participate in that lesson.

Superintendent:
I liked that description, flexibility and predictability, which is really the combination that we're looking for. Is there an in-person component to the middle school and talk to us about the grade configuration?

Spencer:
So the middle school is actually seventh through eighth. We talked about this before, to move ninth grade to the high school. And as far as the in-person, this would be more small group instruction or labs because we're going to have students in a partial schedule. We may only have 25 kids that are in the virtual session with the two satellite offices or satellite buildings that Ross talked about. That teacher will have the ability to run labs or activities and invite students to come in to those sessions or activities that aren't required, but just an added bonus to virtual instruction in the middle school.

Superintendent:
We've mentioned a couple times the physical locations that will be Hidden Valley Middle School and Majestic Elementary School. Hidden Valley is next to an elementary. Majestic is next to a middle school. So there will be a variety of facilities available and all three levels will be available at both locations. One of the things I'm really excited about is that these physical locations will not only allow for interactive lab work and support from teachers in-person, but students can come in and just work at the computer in a quiet place with reliable wifi and great equipment.

Spencer:
Correct. So as of right now, we actually have that set up currently where students can come in to a writing lab or a math lab and get extra help. We ask students, obviously, to set appointment so there's an adult there that can help them through that process. But there are those resources available if the students that need them during the day that can come in and just work through on a computer, like you said, with the internet.

Superintendent:
Stay with us. When we come back, we'll hear from Ammon Wiemers, Principal of the new Kings Peak Virtual High School.

Break:
One of the most prestigious academic achievement programs available for high school students, and we're proud to say, it's coming back to Jordan School District. We're talking about the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which will be located at West Jordan High School. The IB program supports personal and academic achievement for students at the very highest level. IB diploma courses take place during a student's junior and senior year in high school. All sophomores are invited to consider the IB program for next year. There are no pre-requisites for IB and interested middle school students can start preparing now students with the IB diploma have a better chance at getting into some of the most prestigious universities in the world. In order to find out if your teen is a good candidate for IB, visit http://ib.jordandistrict.org, or call West Jordan High School.

Superintendent:
Ammon, let's talk about the high school. What are some of the things that you would like parents to know about? What's going to be available through Kings Peak High School?

Ammon:
When we were thinking about how to design the curriculum and the courses at the high school, some of the guiding principles that we think are important are what we've talked about before. Having some flexibility and also predictability. And when we see what those choices entail, we want students to have choices not only in when and where they learn, this is the virtual component, but also within the courses, what they learn. And so student choice in all three areas are what's important to us. We're building a schedule around that. With that in mind, students don't necessarily have to learn at the same time and in the same place as others. However, it's good to know when and where to get help if you need it. And so within the design of every course, we started to think about it not as a class period, but as an instructional week. Within that week, we have both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities for every student in every course. By the time that students are in high school, we want them to be making intentional decisions about their own learning. If a student is in need of additional support, we have some support in place for them to go and get that help. Teachers will be available throughout the day to zoom or to come in and get help individually. And so it's the level of support at the student level, as the student needs it. And so we have a structure built in that supports the student choice in their learning. In every course, like I said, there's going to be synchronous learning opportunities each week. And then from that, students make intentional decisions about their own learning.

Superintendent:
They have supports to get that help when and where and how they need it. Tell me about a partial schedule at the high school level. It's a question that we get a lot. I'm excited at the prospect of a student being able to fill their schedule with the classes they'd like to take, even if there's a conflict at their home high school, that perhaps they can take an online class. That opens up a class period for them to be able to take an elective, perhaps that was otherwise going to create a conflict. That's a really critical component of this virtual school. Our partnerships with all of the local high schools. And so what we're essentially doing is expanding the offerings and the flexibility of all of the schools where students are enrolled at their high school and they want to get ahead, or they want to take a course that's not offered during a certain period. We offer some flexibility in expanding the course offerings in all of the high schools. And so they will be able to participate in that course in a virtual setting while still maintaining their enrollment at their high school and still being eligible to participate in all the activities that the high school has offered under UHSA rules. Any of those sanctioned sports or activities are still available to students who participate at Kings Peak High School, even if it's full time. Because Kings Peak does not offer any sports teams or any activities of that nature, students are still eligible to participate at their boundary. So we see Kings Peak High School has two options. One is to be fully enrolled at Kings Peak High School. And then the second option, we hope, is to be seen as an extension of the high school. The local high school, when our students participate in the services and receive the support there. And then we offer additional curriculum options, additional course options that they can engage in.

Superintendent:
Let's talk about who's going to be teaching these courses. Spencer, talk to us a little bit about that.

Spencer:
I think the current situation, the pandemic situations placed a lot of teachers in different situations that they never saw themselves in. And the teachers that we're interviewing currently are teachers that have been waiting for this moment for a long time. These are teachers with a strong background in technology. These are teachers with a strong curriculum base, but also design. When you're designing courses online, it's a little bit different than teaching a class or creating lesson plans in person. There are added components to those lessons. And so these teachers are the best at what they do as far as what we've seen in the interviews. And so to say that these are just teachers that are moving from in-class to online is not the case. These teachers have been preparing for this and waiting for this for a long time. And they're exceptional from everything we've seen so far.

Superintendent:
Many parents are wondering whether they can switch back and forth. There's been some switching back and forth, of course, because of the pandemic. As things change over time and the way that things are set up, parents sign up for a virtual school in the same way that they would sign up for a brick and mortar school, and really are committing to that school for the year because their spot is not staffed for at their boundary school. However, we want students to learn in the environment that suits them best. And if there does need to be some switching back and forth, that can happen, in certain circumstances. But essentially the expectation is that when you sign up, you're signing up for the year. But of course, we work very hard to provide flexibility. As you've said before, that's at the center of what we're doing.

Spencer:
Yeah. That's a wonderful comment. The wonderful thing about this virtual program elementary up through high school is it's personalized. It's designed for the students. It's designed to meet their individual needs. Now, as a student enrolled in the school, they're enrolling in the program, they're growing in the school, just like you have their school, but you know, and I know in parents listening to this and students listening, we all know there's different things that happen in life. And that's where we come together. And we have that flexibility with predictability. Now, being able to change back and forth between schools comes with its own challenges, comes own concerns, and we'll face those when we get there. But as we get into this and we get going, we start learning. If you have concerns, you have questions, all of us would love to talk to you. Come in, give us a call, whatever, it works to send us an email, let's get together. Let's talk, let's figure out what works best for your student. This is a very personalized program, very individualized and we're here. We're committed, just as the rest of Jordan School District. We're committed to what's best for our students and our families.

Superintendent:
I'm just going to go around the room and ask each principal to explain, how will a parent or student know that your school is the right school for them next year?

Ross:
One of the big differences between our current online learning and Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary is that this is more parents making the choice about where their child learns best. If your child learns best inside your home with you being aware of what's happening in their curriculum and what their learning needs, this is a great option for you. If your child learns best by having some flexibility throughout their day, and be able to have a different schedule than normal, this works best for them. As a parent, you need to be aware that this option works extremely well as we all come together and work together. And so parents are an active member of the learning process. As they work with teachers to ensure what is best for students, what is best for their child and what works best for them?

Spencer:
I think ultimately it's about flexibility. Parents know their students best. And the option at Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle School is, let me give you an example of three types of kids that we see. One, maybe you have a student that needs an extracurricular class to fit in their schedule because they're in SBL and they don't have room in their schedule. This is perfect for them. Maybe you have a son or a daughter that's on a dance team or an Olympic ski team or a hockey team and they have to leave early every day and they need to take that fifth, sixth, seventh period online. This is perfect for them. And as mentioned earlier, maybe you're a student that has an IEP or struggles with anxiety and the large crowds and large group classes make you a little bit nervous.

Ammon:
This is the place for you because of its flexibility and predictability, just like choosing any school. This is a decision that parents need to make with their students. And while it is a new high school, we have some idea of who might be successful here. We have a situation where students have been learning how to learn online through Canvas and through the last year students who have shown that they can work independently, work at their own pace and make good choices on their own are going to be very successful in this setting.

Superintendent:
We offered virtual high school classes even before the pandemic and the pass rate in Jordan District was double that of some districts that are comparable. And so I know we have the people and the program in place for students to be very successful. Really the bottom line here is, if this sounds good for you and your student, it's worth giving it a try. It's worth signing up because we have outstanding principals with a great background, but are interviewing and hiring the best teachers around with not just the skills, but the passion for teaching students in this way. So thanks to all three of you for moving this vision forward. I'm excited to have an additional alternative available to students beyond the pandemic. And we look forward to great things. Thanks for joining

For more information about the Jordan Virtual Learning Academy, Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School, Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle School, or King's Peak Virtual High School, call (801) 567-8131 or visit connect.jordandistrict.org. Thanks for joining us for another edition of the Supercast. And remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see ya out there.

Show Audio Transcription
Share the Supercast!