Brighton High senior Katelyn Krueger, like a lot of modern teens, doesn't have much time on her hands. In addition to taking a full class load, the future fashion designer is a competitive snowboarder, captain of her school's dance company and an intern at a clothing business.
She's exactly the type of student Canyons School District had in mind when it launched the Canyons Virtual High School (CVHS), which opens its doors (not real, but figurative ones) this fall.
By taking two of her classes online this year (health and language arts), Krueger will only have to take three classes in each of her final two trimesters within the brick-and-mortar walls of Brighton High School, leaving her time to hit the snowboarding slopes.
She'll also get to avoid fraternizing with mere 10th-graders.
"I'm way excited, because health is all full of sophomores, and since I'm a senior, this was one reason I really wanted to take it online," said the Holladay 17-year-old, who plans to attend the Art Institute of Portland after she graduates next spring.
Canyons is one of several public school districts (Murray City, Granite and Jordan are among the others) that will now offer online classes to students in grades 9-12 thanks to Utah Senate Bill 65, which the 2011 Legislature made law to provide students with more options.
Canyons will offer 64 classes online this year, including 13 Advanced Placement courses. This year and next, students will be able to take two credits online; the number of credits will be increased by one each year until 2016-17, when students will be allowed to take six credits online during a school year. CVHS classes are available to students throughout the state, not just those who live in district boundaries.
Karen Sterling, who heads the program for Canyons, sees online schooling as the future of education.
"There's been some research out that within the next four years, 40 percent of all high-school credits will be provided online; it is emerging," said Sterling, Canyons director of federal and state programs. "A lot of our kids will go on to college. Many of their basic courses in college are online classes, so this is a good way to get them ready for that."
Sterling said students will find CVHS convenient because they can work on their studies on the weekends, late at night, during the summer, whenever. They also will have access to courses not offered at their respective schools.
This year, AP classes including environmental science and microeconomics, which aren't offered anywhere else in the district, will be available online.
"A school can't run a class for three kids," said Sterling, "but when we offer it at our online high school, we can pick up kids from several schools."
Canyons apparently takes requests, too. When a new student moved to the district and discovered it didn't offer advanced Chinese, Canyons decided to teach it online. Chinese 3 is now available this school year.
Many online classes will be taught in a similar way to traditional schooling with reading texts, writing papers, taking tests, etc. Some courses will simulate a video game, with students attempting to advance to higher levels. Sterling said this style is motivational to today's tech-savvy kids. All classes will be taught by licensed teachers who will provide feedback and instruction. Classes are competency-based, and students can test out when they know the subject matter.
"We're excited," Sterling said. "We really think that this is not only the wave of the future, but it really does go to the heart of making sure that kids are college- and career-ready based on competency."
And if there's a way for seniors to avoid those pesky sophomores, why not?