Next school year, Kapolei Middle School will be the first traditional public school campus in the state to offer all of its classes for seventh- and eighth-graders online.
Kapolei online academy
Kapolei Middle School is recruiting seventh- and eighth-graders for its online academy, which started as a pilot project this school year.
For now, enrollment for the online academy is limited to 15 students in each grade level.
But school administrators believe the program eventually could enroll a chunk of students large enough to potentially ease longtime overcrowding — or at least help to stave off bigger problems as the number of students at the campus continues to grow with new families moving in.
Dana Kobashigawa, acting principal of Kapolei Middle, said the online program is aimed at easing overcrowding but is also a recognition that the "world is changing" and that tech-savvy students and different kinds of learners are hungry for alternatives to traditional school campuses.
"We really need to explore where technology will take you," she said.
The total enrollment at Kapolei Middle — capacity 1,200 — is now 1,450. That figure is expected to rise to 1,800 in two years.
Several Hawaii public charter and private schools offer online-only instruction or a hybrid model with some face-to-face classes. And public high schools have long offered certain courses online, especially for students whose schools don’t offer certain subjects or who need to make up credits.
But the department says Kapolei is the first traditional public school campus to try the online-only model, where students get their instruction, interact with teachers and peers and turn in all of their work online.
The online-only academy at Kapolei started this school year as a pilot project for 11 eighth-graders.
School officials acknowledged there were some early stumbles.
Some students were not completing assignments because no one was reminding them to. Others didn’t like the isolation of working from home or communicating with teachers online.
Now, only four students are still taking online-only classes. The rest, except for one who left the school, are back at campus.
Annette Nishikawa, who helped launch the online academy as Kapolei Middle’s principal and now serves as acting complex area superintendent for the area, said the online school is not for all students.
It requires kids to manage their time well, keep up on assignments and be independent.
The school also said changes are being made to address problems in the pilot. In the coming school year, the online program will:
» require students come to campus as often as once a week;
» assign a teacher to the project during school hours (teachers were overseeing the online program after their regular school day was over);
» and kick off the program with a "boot camp" that will give kids a crash course in the software and computer skills they will be using. The camp will also drive home what is expected of them as online students.
Nishikawa said the school also intends to have much more interaction with parents of online students, stressing that parents need to play a big role in making sure kids are logging on during much of the day and completing their assignments.
Luana Viveiros, who will be the face-to-face instructor for the online academy next school year, said she’s not deterred by the early problems with the program and believes the changes will make a big difference.
"It’s a first year," she said. "Things are not going to work out the way we want them to work out."