WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Officials with the Wichita Falls Independent School District announced an exciting new course option for juniors and seniors.
A certain number of classes will be offered completely online beginning in the 2023-2024 school year for the district’s upperclassmen.
Ward Roberts, the Director of Innovation and Advanced Academics for WFISD, said he thinks this is the way of the future.
“One of the main reasons is we think that online courses develop some skills that they need once they get out of high school,” Roberts said.
Roberts said these online offerings for upperclassmen are just another way the district hopes to innovate and prepare their students for the next step.
“If you’re gonna go to a college or tech school or really get any kind of education after high school most of it probably will be done online,” Ward said.
Preparing upperclassmen for their next level of education is just one of the variety of ways these courses will help meet the needs of WFISD students.
“Sometimes especially as kids get into their junior and senior years they want to be in a lot of different programs and take a lot of different classes,” Roberts said. “Sometimes that’s hard to schedule. So the ability to take these courses online would add a layer of flexibility for them.”
It’s called remote asynchronous learning, and Roberts says it provides an opportunity for students to build their schedules in a way that meets their needs.
“Asynchronous means you can do your learning whenever, at whatever time works best for you,” Roberts said. “So that they don’t have to be physically at school during a specific period to get their work done.”
Students will have to check in at least once a day, but the window in which they can choose to check in is pretty wide. Roberts said teachers will have assignments every day, and students will have to check in every day, but they can do it based on their own schedule.
“It could be from 12:01 in the morning to 11:59 at night,” Roberts said. “So really it could be literally just any time.”
So for parents that may remember the nightmare that was School at Home during the early months of the pandemic, don’t worry. The asynchronous model isn’t anything like School at Home. Plus, teachers won’t have the added burden of educating online and in the classroom at the same time.
“These teachers will have specific dedicated remote classes and it’ll only be remote,” Roberts said. “So they won’t have to be juggling their classroom and some kids that are online.”
The timing of these new offerings, however, has some community members concerned about WFISD’s two new high schools, Legacy and Memorial, which are set to open in 2024.
Some WFISD community members have expressed worries that the virtual options are coming with Hirschi, Rider, and Wichita Falls High Schools set to close after the 2023-24 school year because the new high schools aren’t big enough to handle all of the students.
Roberts said there’s a grain of truth to that, but it’s part of the design.
“The schools will be built a little bit tight but that’s the way things are going like right now we have kids that are off campus for dual credit they go to the career center,” Roberts said. “We have programs in place where our schools don’t really need to be at capacity where everybody is going to be there the whole time, and that was built on by design. This is kind of an extension of that, but not necessarily a necessity.”
The district plans on offering a few courses online to start with.
“English 3 and 4, were gonna try a math class with Algebra 2, and then government and economics and a couple of other semester electives like that,” Roberts said.
District officials said they hope to add even more courses in the years to come.
“The more kids that sign up for it, the more options we can offer,” Roberts said. “Hopefully, we can generate enough interest to make all those options possible.”
The overall goal is to better serve and educate students across Wichita Falls.
“It really just builds some time management skills, the ability to work on your own and be a self-directed learner,” Roberts said. “I think that’s really important, and again, I think it will make their life just a little bit easier to schedule.”
Beyond that, it’s about getting juniors and seniors ready for the next phase in their education.
“It gives them a much better introduction to college life in a small dose,” Roberts said. “So they’re not just thrown into the college environment altogether but they can kind of do it in smaller pieces and make that transition easier.”