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Online high school offers alternate to regular education

Online high school offers alternate to regular education

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It doesn't have a football team or even a mascot, but Utah Electronic High School does have a rapidly growing number of students.

Last year, the high school enrolled nearly 7,300 "unique students" compared to roughly 6,800 the year before. Principal Kathleen Webb says demographics really changed when the state raised graduation standards.

"For the state graduation, we used to require 3-2-2, three language arts, two math and two science [classes]. They've raised those standards to 4-3-3, which is four language arts, three math and three science [classes,]" she said.

The school isn't used like a regular high school. It has very few full-time students that take just the classes online with nothing else. Webb says 95 percent of the students are also enrolled in a public school, and they take the online classes to either catch up or speed ahead.

"Kids are still wanting all those great classes they took in high school -- their choir, their drafting, those kinds of things. So, they're coming to us to take some of their required classes," Webb said.

Some students tell Webb they take classes online so they can travel with the rodeo circuit or join a luge team. Some parents admit they signed their kids up for online classes so they can take family trips with their children during the school year.

While she says the classes are very effective, she admits the school is not for everyone. "If a student that's struggling needs to do credit recovery, if they have a parent or a school mentor who helps them set goals and keeps track of them [then] they do well in our school," she said.

Since almost all of the students at Utah Electronic High School are enrolled elsewhere, the students get all of the social experiences that come with high school, like football games and proms. However, there are other online charter schools that don't offer the same kind of socialization. Webb says those schools will come together to plan activities so the kids can hang out with others, though.

"They usually have a monthly meeting where they get together and do a field trip or something like that," she said.

The online high school set a goal to have its courses accessible through smart phones by 2011.


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Paul Nelson


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