SPRING HILL — Pasco eSchool principal Joanne Glenn greeted her faculty with excitement and cheers on the first day of planning week. The school was named the 2017-2018 Florida Virtual School of the Year among large-district franchises.
Assistant principals Lori Wiggins and Pam Willoughby shared the news with 87 faculty members gathered at Crews Lake Middle School, home location of eSchool. The announcement set the tone for a celebration of the eSchool's 10th anniversary.
The effort started when state Legislators decided that beginning with the graduating class of 2015, every student must pass an online course. It's part of the 24 credits required for high school graduation. Online work is now routine for students, and many middle and high school students complete several online courses.
Faced with the new requirement, many of Florida's 67 county school districts turned to Florida Virtual Schools, created in 1997 as the first statewide, internet-based high school in the United States. Pasco schools took advantage of an option to create a virtual district school with Pasco administrators and teachers.
Pasco is one of 44 Florida districts holding a Florida Virtual School franchise, and one of the largest. Broward and Orange counties have larger participation.
Pasco eSchool serves about 11,000 students in grades K-12 who select from 160 courses, Wiggins said.
The eSchool meets various student needs, including for students involved in activities that limit their time to attend class during traditional school hours.
Wiggins cited another option: "We may have a student who wants to take, for example, a foreign language that's not offered in our schools. They may be able to do that through FLVS."
Attending eSchool requires parent involvement. Elementary school children and their parents attend a full week on the Crews Lake campus. They receive coaching on instructional techniques and academic integrity, such as avoiding plagiarism. Students participate in live lessons online and participate in conferences with their parents either online or by phone.
Glenn has led Pasco eSchool since it began. She's adamant that it be part of the Pasco team helping students reach their academic goals.
"We are good partners with other schools, and our district really means it when they say they find a plan to meet individual student needs," Glenn said.
Times Correspondent Gail Diederich is a retired teacher. She has 32 years of experience, including 28 years in Pasco County Schools, where she taught gifted students and was a reading specialist. She taught education, general studies and business leadership at Pasco Hernando State College and at Saint Leo University.