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Column: District’s 518 VIBE remains positive

By Barry Fischer, District 518

WORTHINGTON — VIBE (Virtual Instruction by Excellence), District 518’s online school, opened its doors in 2013 and — much like the rest of the school district — has seen tremendous growth. Student enrollment numbers the first year capped out at 33 full-time students and 19 supplemental (or part-time) students. The 2014-2015 school year numbers grew to 107, followed by 143, and then 200 full-time students in the 2016-2017 school year. This year, the numbers have grown to more than 350 full-time students. The window for fall registration is closing, but will open again later in the year for the spring semester.  

The students range from kindergarten to seniors across Minnesota. VIBE utilizes curriculum from several vendors: K-12, Fuel Education and Harmony Educational Services. All curriculum meets or exceeds the standards set forth by Minnesota Department of Education, and all online teachers are certified to teach Minnesota students.

Not only have the student numbers increased, but so have the educational field trips students in the VIBE program have the opportunity to attend. In the past two years VIBE students, parents/guardians and prospective new students have had the opportunity to meet at the Minnesota Science Museum during the spring semester. This fall, we kicked off the year with a fall field trip to an apple orchard near Jordan. The field trip included apple picking, learning how the orchard harvests apples and how the apple cider is made. Parents had the chance to meet staff members from the VIBE program as well as members from one of our vendors.

In online learning, field trips such as this fall trip are important to build connections among the students and their families as well as to meet staff members of the program to ask questions in person. Elementary students in the VIBE program have the ability to take an “options day” course. These courses meet in three different Minnesota cities, and students from the surrounding areas can meet to work with educational leaders on speciality electives (karate, foreign languages, cooking, and many others) as well as to have learning time with their peers.

All students throughout the state of Minnesota are eligible to take online courses or to attend an online school. No school district may prohibit a student from applying to enroll in online learning (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.095 Subdivision 3a).

Online learning is not for every student. Students need to be self motivated and to plan a minimum of one hour each day per course to be online. Online students need to have strong communication skills, as it will be important to use online tools to communicate with instructors. Along with these personal skills, online students will also need a working computer or tablet with reliable internet.

Additional information can be found on the District 518’s website.

Barry Fischer is principal of District 518's Area Learning Center.