OC's 30-year-old independent study program growing popular for families looking for non-traditional ways of distance learning

It appears what's old is new again, with the independent study program's office receiving about 150 inquiry calls in just three days last week.
TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- Machele Kilgore is a distance learning veteran. The principal and administrator helped start the independent study program in Orange County three decades ago, and finds herself answering a lot of questions for families looking for something non-traditional.

"We are a public school through the Orange County Department of Education, so we're one option that families have that has been around for about 30 years, so we do have a bit of experience with the distance learning, independent study approach," said Kilgore.

It appears what's old is new again, with her office receiving about 150 inquiry calls in just three days last week. For grades TK through 8th, there's the Community Home Education Program - or CHEP, which is basically state-funded home school tied to the county's education department.

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"We provide credentialed teachers and we provide on-campus classes and electives. We provide all the curriculum. We have a super active PTO, so there's a lot of events," she said.

In CHEP, the parents take the lead role in their child's education.

Then there's Pacific Coast High School, which blends independent study and a traditional school, feeling more like a mini community college.

"So we have actors, athletes, musicians, I say medically fragile, students who don't enjoy the social scene of high school, students who want to graduate early, students who want to attend community college concurrently. There's just a variety of support we've offered for a variety of different needs," said Kilgore.

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Students have been able to choose classes in person or do it completely online. For now, it'll all be online, which is why Kilgore is busy preparing these to-go learning bags.

"All the materials that students would need, we're just checking out to them. So they'll come, they'll drive through, they'll check out the material that they'll need and they'll still have their classes," she said.

Since both programs are considered public schools, the resources and supplies are free. With so many options these days, Kilgore urges parents to look into what will work best.

"Looking at what your personal family's needs and hopes are for your students and then seeing what fits because there's a lot out there, there's a lot of options now, which makes me really happy," said Kilgore.

For more information go to OCDE.us and search for community home education program or Pacific Coast High School.

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