GREEN BAY – Green Bay’s Online School still has a pretty generic name, but efforts are underway to change that before it expands its teaching to include sixth-graders for the next school year.
Many students have seen accelerated academic growth in the school’s first year, principal Adam Gloudemans told members of the Green Bay School Board Monday. While official numbers have yet to be released, half of the first-grade class has had two-year academic growth during the school year, Gloudemans said.
The school’s enrollment is about 140 students in 4K through fifth grade, with teachers located at Lincoln Elementary School, where they teach from instructional studios.
While more online programs are becoming available at the elementary level, they tend to follow the same routine of a normal school day. That’s not the case in Green Bay.
In Green Bay, the program is more individualized. Students still follow the same district curriculum and assessments, but the school focuses more specifically on what each student needs, with each student receiving a personalized schedule where they can “come and go” throughout the whole day.
Teachers also assign activities that can be done offline, with the goal of having around three hours of instruction off the computer.
Some elementary online schools are built similar to online programs for high school or college students. They may be more independent with fewer check-ins from teachers. In Green Bay’s program, teachers meet with students four to five times a day.
It is also different from virtual learning that happened during the pandemic.
When classes moved online in March 2020, there wasn’t time to look at what would work best for online instruction. Students did the same “brick and mortar” curriculum they had been doing virtually now during the normal school day.
“We knew we couldn’t ask 5-year-olds to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day,” Gloudemans said.
The school also includes learning coaches, who are the guardians at home who help the students. They don’t act as a teacher but help them if they need to read an assignment out loud to someone for instance, Gloudemans said.
“A lot of parents love that because they are part of their children’s education for the first time,” he said.
Everyone enrolled in the school must be a resident of the Green Bay School District or Wisconsin through open enrollment. But being online has opened up flexibility to learn from anywhere. This school year, some students were taught as far away as Arizona, New York, Florida, Mexico and Jamaica.
“In some families, mom is a traveling nurse,” Gloudemans said. “That student is there for a period of time, traveling back to Mexico for a period of time, or they were in Jamaica during the pandemic because that was a good place to be.”
New name for GBAPS Online School?
School and district officials are in the process of finding a new name for the school. It’s currently called GBAPS Online School, but administrators hope to make it more reflective of the uniqueness of the program.
A committee — including Gloudemans, School Board member James Lyerly, teachers, the school’s fifth-grade students and volunteers from the community — has been formed to decide on a new name.
During a board meeting Monday, Lyerly said the goal of the naming process is to build more enrollment and create a “classroom without walls” that is still at a maintainable class size for teachers.
He thinks the online school may be a good option for families who currently home-school their children or want to provide support as a learning coach instead of being a teacher to their kids.
The naming committee will meet twice in the next couple weeks to come up with about three possible names to bring to the board. The board will vote on a name at the end of June.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Green Bay Online School to include sixth grade in the fall semester