PATRIOT — With the move toward the use of new technology in education, administrators with one local school district are adapting to technology’s role in the schools.
With the changing financial challenges facing local schools, Gallia County Local Schools launched an online academy called SODA, which stands for Southern Ohio Digital Academy. It was part of a three-part plan to be fiscally responsible and increase student participation and achievement.
After a pilot run of the program, Scot West, director of the Digital Academy, moved forward with implementing the program this year in 6-12 grades, leading to an increase in academic success among students. While there are many online schooling options in the state of Ohio, a program that is locally based and operated by a public school district is rather unique.
“As a district we have made it very clear, we don’t work in a box. When we are working with a student, we will go anywhere to find the best solution to help them,” said Jude Meyers, superintendent of Gallia County Local. This is the mindset that came up with the online academy in Gallia County, one that was willing to think outside the traditional box and solve the problem of educating students in an ever-changing environment.
“We were losing students to all of the other online private schools in the state, and losing money from decreased enrollment,” said West. “When these online schools failed the students, they simply dumped them back on us leaving us with the problem of how to help these kids.”
In part, SODA came in to existence to help students that had been let down by other organizations and then had nowhere left to turn. Meyers explained that the traditional academic model has been in place since the 1700’s, and it was time to reevaluate how the education system works.
With SODA in place students have the opportunity to take classes that they likely would not have had before. SODA offers different language classes, ecology, advanced courses in math and science, history, and many others that students can take, regardless of their enrollment in a traditional school, and still participate in all extra-curricular activities.
“If a student has a full schedule with regular academic classes but wants to be more involved in the music program, they can work with a guidance counselor and take history or math online,” said Lori Bevan, online coordinator for SODA. If a student is only taking classes online they are still encouraged to be involved in sports, dances, and other school social events. The program is not only designed to help students that do not learn well in a traditional setting, but enable all students to achieve more by offering a different path through high school.
The staff in the administration office are excited about the future of education in Gallia County. While SODA is still in its infancy, they believe they have made large strides forward in serving the youth of our community.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 or [email protected]