R-7 Online Academy Expands Across Missouri
The COVID-19 challenges to education nationwide provided momentum in LSR7 to invest in online education and engage elementary students across Missouri.
As the pandemic disrupted traditional education, LSR7 took quick and proactive steps to expand its established online education structure: R-7’s secondary Online Academy.
The district committed to meeting our school community’s online learning needs. It significantly expanded courses for students who chose R-7 Online Academy during the pandemic, and several of the new options are now permanent.
The district’s commitment to K-12 online learning opportunities is here to stay.
The R-7 Online Academy is available to more than just LSR7 students. Elementary students statewide can access an LSR7 education through the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program (MOCAP).
LSR7’s appeal throughout the state is a testament to the district’s high-quality teachers and the curriculum they develop, says Director of Instructional Technology Kyle Pace.
“We’ve had teachers that have been with us from the beginning still teaching those online classes, which tells me that they do take a lot of pride and ownership,” Mr. Pace said.
BENEFITING FROM FORESIGHT
LSR7’s education structure enabled the district to meet the pandemic’s extraordinary demands.
Before coronavirus and social distancing became buzz words, LSR7 started the secondary R-7 Online Academy in 2008, provided Chromebooks to K-12 students in 2015 and launched the Schoology online learning management system in 2016.
These structural advantages empowered Mrs. Kaitlyn Hookie, sixth grade R-7 Online Academy teacher, to transform her education career. An early adopter of blended learning, Mrs. Hookie chose to use the internet to enhance learning before COVID-19 required it. “In class we were able to have these incredibly deep discussions that made it resonate with them so much more than what I had ever done before,” she says. “Once I started to see that part of technology was opening doors in a way that I never had in the past six years, I really started to see how much I could push myself.”
She’s engaging R-7 Online Academy students in class while bridging the digital gap.
“It has been amazing to me that something I never would have seen happening in my entire career completely transformed my way of teaching,” Mrs. Hookie says.
PROVIDING A ROBUST, WELL-ROUNDED LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Compared to the traditional classroom’s limits, R-7 Online Academy provides more opportunities for either working ahead or taking time with a new concept, according to Emily Honour, one of Mrs. Hookie’s former students.
“I think one of the reasons that I thrived in R-7 Online Academy is it’s a lot more independent, which I know doesn’t work for everyone,” says Emily, who enrolled in the R-7 Online Academy for sixth grade in the 2020-21 school year.
In addition to academic growth, R-7 Online Academy connected her to old friends and new faces, she says.
R-7 Online Academy was in the fabric of family life, says Emily’s mother.
“She comes away from her screen and away from her meeting and we talk about the Civil War project she’s working on or the book that they’re reading, and it made us closer together,” Ms. Mary
INVESTING IN R-7 ONLINE ACADEMY
Since July 2021, R-7 Online Academy directors in dedicated job roles have overseen the expanding secondary and elementary programs.
Director of Elementary Online Dr. Joy Brigman distinguishes the difference between virtual learning and R-7 Online Academy.
“Virtual learning is what happened when our in-person students had to go home to learn. They quickly had to pivot and adjust to a variant schedule. R-7 Online Academy provides students with a consistent learning modality. Lessons and expectations are predictable. There is flexibility without compromising the daily schedule,” she says. “R-7 Online Academy is almost like Elementary #19. We operate as our own school and provide students an accessible and alternative avenue for achieving academic success.”
Maintaining teacher-family communication and having a “grownup at home” are keys to success, says Dr. Brigman. This support system values parent engagement and strengthens the school-home partnership.
R-7 Online Academy provides a flexible learning environment.
“If a student is going to be traveling or spending a week with a grandparent, they can still continue to learn,” she says. “Just because they’re not in their usual location doesn’t mean they can’t still join the class and stay connected and continue learning.”
The elementary level will have 14 dedicated K-6 teachers, a dedicated team for art/music/PE, dedicated special education teachers and coordinators, a dedicated librarian and a dedicated counselor.
Director of Secondary Online Tim Collins says the secondary R-7 Online Academy’s identity will include connectedness, high expectations for academic achievement and schedule flexibility. Instruction will reflect best practices from in-person and online education.
“There’s a time for lecturing. There’s a time for sit-and-get, but we found that doesn’t work for several students in the current generation,” Mr. Collins says. “We have to be adaptable.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
LSR7’s investment in online learning aims to support the needs of learners who thrive in an online environment, while offering flexibility, independence and access to top teachers in the state.
That goal will carry throughout the program for years to come.
“I don’t want people to think about the pandemic when they’re thinking of the R-7 Online Academy. I want them to think about a highly functioning school,” says Mr. Collins. “I want them to think of a place where students come out of it prepared and ready to go for their lives.”