Highland charter school offers in-person and online learning options for the fall

A Highland charter school is giving parents the options of choosing between in-person and online classes for their children.
HIGHLAND, Calif. (KABC) -- A charter school in Highland made headlines two years ago for its unique use of an abandoned department store building for its campus.

Entrepreneur High School is getting attention again, this time for the methods administrators are using to hopefully allow some students to return to class next month, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is an issue that's become very politicized," said Chief Academic Officer Randel Josserand regarding the issue of whether to offer in-person education or go strictly online.

"We don't want an issue where the kids be used as a political football," he said.

Josserand said a recent survey of parents completed last week showed about 60% wanted children to come back to school at least some of the time, and about 40% of parents wanted to keep their kids home and use distance learning. As such, they've created two options for parents to choose from.

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As states grapple with how to safely start the upcoming school year, the American Academy of Pediatrics is pushing for students to be physically present in classrooms rather than continue in remote learning for the sake of their well-being.

"If a parent says 'What's right for me now is to have my child in class,' then we have that option, but if two weeks later they say 'You know, it's better to go 100% online,' then they do that," Josserand said.

When the state ordered schools to close in late March, everyone rushed to implement distance learning courses, where teachers could reach students online. But Josserand says it didn't work very well.

"We were in school, and the next day we were all doing distance learning. That was not successful. It wasn't successful for us; and for the vast majority of district leaders, it wasn't successful for them either," Josserand said. "So we've had to reimagine what school can be."

Josserand said each classroom has now been put together to specifically allow students to learn safely in the COVID-19 era. First, there are a maximum of 24 students allowed in a classroom. Each desk is spaced six feet apart, and there is a plastic partition around the desk.

Secondly, each classroom is outfitted with several cameras and video monitors showing everything that's happening inside.

Josserand said it will allow students who are learning from home to feel like they're still in the classroom.

"In a traditional online setting, there isn't a great deal of interaction between the teacher and the students. It's limited. So that's what we've worked to address," Josserand said.

Students will also not be moving from classroom to classroom at the end of each period; they stay put. Instead, it's the teachers who will pick up and move on. Josserand said this will lessen the potential for large groups of students to intermix.

"For us, we're really going back to putting together a structure that is safe, unique and something parents are saying they want for their kids," Josserand said.

Classes are scheduled to begin on Aug. 3rd.
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