ROCHESTER, Minn. - Distance learning may be the way of the future for some Med City students.
Rochester Public Schools is working on a plan to launch a permanent online school, with the district ready to send an application to the Minnesota Department of Education for approval.
"We recognize a number of students may be seeking a virtual school experience beyond the pandemic for a variety of reasons. We believe we have a number of students who are thriving in this learning environment and would take advantage of a permanent on-line school should this be offered Rochester Public Schools," RPS staff said in a meeting document.
The district says the school would serve K-12 students, offering coursework designed to meet the unique needs of each individual pupil. It would also provide a variety of learning model options, from full distance learning to hybrid learning where students could take as little as one class virtually. Staff add after the pandemic, students and teachers could even meet for activities like labs, field trips, and celebrations.
School Board Clerk Melissa Amundsen says a dedicated online school would be an asset for Rochester families.
"I think an online school is great and overdue, and I'm so happy that we're pursuing this option," Amundsen said. "I think it's healthy for our school district, it's healthy for our community, and it's healthy for the students and their families to have an additional option to choose from if that's what they feel works best for them."
If the district's plan is accepted by MDE, the Rochester Public School Board would need to grant final approval before the program is launched. Staff say online courses through the school may begin this fall, with registration starting as early as this spring.
RPS Superintendent Michael Munoz says if the virtual school is able to start this year, it's likely the full scope of the program won't be ready by fall.
"It's not going to look like that day one that first year out. It's going to take some time to build the capacity to get where you would truly have a full online and a full staff dedicated just to the online academy part of it," Munoz said.
Staff say even with in-person learning available, 17.2% of K-5 students in the district are choosing to remain in full distance learning. So far 19.7% of secondary students have indicated they will the same when full in-person learning resumes April 5th.