Spain Park to offer online courses

This fall, Spain Park High School will offer online courses for seniors as a way to introduce them to a mode of instruction they’ll likely see in college.

Dr. Ron Dodson, director of secondary curriculum for Hoover City Schools, said Spain Park will offer 12th grade English and 12th grade government and economics, as will Hoover High School.

“They’re making that transition to college, and online courses are now such a part of the college curriculum for kids,” Dodson said. “When they go to college, they’re going to be completely on their own. And we wanted to have a program to introduce kids to those classes, to walk them into the water instead of throwing them off the deep end of the pool.”

Students who take the courses can elect to take one or both. They would attend an in-school class one day a week, and the rest of the time they would arrive to school later or leave school early.

Dodson said each course would have 120 spots available. Spain Park’s senior classes usually number between 350-375, so approximately a third of the senior class could be enrolled in the courses.

“Since it is a pilot program, we want to keep the number of students and teachers small so we can learn about the program,” he said. “If it’s successful, we’ll obviously expand it down the road.”

There are requirements for students who want to enroll in the online courses. Prospective enrollees must have a 2.75 grade point average, cannot have more than one unexcused absence per semester and cannot have more than one disciplinary incident.

“We’re trying to build the motivation for students to come to school and not get in trouble,” Dodson said.

Students would also have to pay a fee for the software necessary to participate in online courses. Right now, the fee is set at $150, but if enough students enroll, the fee may drop.

Dodson said teachers are cautious about the new offerings, but they know times are changing.

“They don’t want to lose the high quality of instruction, but they realize the physical walls of a school are becoming more and more transparent,” he said.

Spain Park officials expect the online classes to be popular with students, Dodson said.

“We go through this every year with new electives. We think we know what the kids want, but until they sign up, we don’t know for sure,” he said. “From what I’ve heard, the student response has been pretty positive. They like anything that makes their lives more flexible.”