Calallen High School has received a Vision 20/20 grant that will help to fund new technology resources and online courses for students.
The $500,000 grant was awarded through the Texas Education Agency.
"It was money left over from the No Child Left Behind Act," project coordinator Caroline Nowell said. "It's actually a grant that Calallen was awarded in collaboration with Mathis Independent School District."
Nowell, working with Calallen liason Aricela De La Fuente and Mathis liason Walter Scott, is working closely with both schools to properly use the grant money.
"The grant is all about incorporating technology into the curriculum, so there's several parts to this grant," Nowell said. "One big part of the grant is for students to have the opportunity to take online classes."
Nowell said the program is open to any student from grades 9 through 12. Currently, Calallen ISD allows students to take classes online through Texas Tech, but the courses have had to be paid for by the students themselves. Nowell said that with the grant, the school will pay for the online classes instead.
"Right now, Calallen has 12 students enrolled and Mathis has 22," she said.
Nowell said that the program will also offer online courses through Texas Virtual School (TVS), which will begin their Spring semester Jan. 11. Unlike Texas Tech, which is also a university that can be attended physically, TVS is solely an online school.
"They just run their programs differently," Nowell said. "Texas Tech is a self-paced program, and the students know that, but we're trying to keep them on track to where they complete it in a timely fashion."
"TVS is quite different. It does not offer open enrollment, their teachers are much more structured, they have to log on so many times a week… I think that those students will definitely finish their classes quicker, but I think they're a little more stressed out. The Texas Tech students have more time, but I think a negative to that is they know they have the time," she added.
Nowell said another difference in the two online schools are what courses the grant allows them to accept.
"With Texas Tech, as long as it's an online class, we can take it," Nowell said. "With TVS, it's become a little bit of a sticky situation."
Nowell said that due to a House bill that was passed, courses that are approved through the TVS network are not eligible to be taken through the grant due to a "state versus funding issue."
"It's kind of confusing," Nowell said. "Actually through TVS, we're able to take only six of their courses."
Nowell also said that the grant doesn't allow for classes to be taken that the schools already offer unless the students has a schedule conflict.
"You can't say 'I don't want to take Geometry because I don't like a certain teacher, so I'll take it online,'" Nowell said.
Nowell said one of the main benefits of the program is that it teaches students disclipline in preparation for college.
"It is a self-discipline class," Nowell said. "(The students) have to do this on their own, they are not on a schedule, but we have computer labs open if they need the extra time. We have a requirement that they have to come in twice a week, just to keep us posted and let us know how they are doing."
Besides offering online classes to students, Nowell said the grant will also help teachers create their own online courses.
"We have nine total, seven at Calallen and two in Mathis, that have just completed a web instructor certification course and they are going to create an online class themselves so that we can offer it to our students and surrounding areas," Nowell said.
Nowell said the plan is to start offering the classes next year.
"They just completed the course, they are going to start writing the curriculum in January and go through some more training," Nowell said.
In addition to the online courses that Calallen and Mathis teachers are putting together, Nowell said that the grant is also being used campus-wide to promote technology in the curriculum.
"Every educator in both high school is every six weeks completing some sort of technology-related professional development," Nowell said.
The high school will also receive 30 computers and other technology resources through the grant.
"We're going to have some laptops, too," Nowell said. "That will help students that need that extra resource at home. It is independant study, so if (online students) need a laptop to help do their work, we're going to help provide that for them."
The deadline for enrollment in online classes for next semester is Dec. 15.
For more information on TVS, visit their Web site at www.texasvirtualschool.org.