Staff located at libraries across Kansas can help those seeking to graduate from high school through 21st Century Learning Academy.
The 21st Century Learning Academy in the Kiowa County school system has graduated more than 50 students per year over the last 10 years. These students have been high school seniors or adults, but they are 50 people who might otherwise never had the chance to earn a diploma.
Student enrollment tends to change from day to day because of open enrollment allowed throughout the school year, Brian Deterding, USD 422 principal said that students enroll, drop, and graduate on a fairly regular basis.
Students in the virtual school fall into 1 of 3 categories. Charter students are 6th -12th grade students that are below the age of 19. Learning Academy students are adult students. Credit recovery students are students who attend another school but they are taking a class in order to try to regain a credit for failing a class in their own school.
As of November 12, 2019 there were 131 charter students, 72 Learning Academy students and 13 credit recovery students all enrolled through the Kiowa County school system with the 21st Century Learning Academy.The 21st Century Learning Academy became a part of the USD 422 Kiowa County in 2010 when Greensburg and Mullinville schools consolidated. It was already in place and operated as a part of USD 424 Mullinville prior to the consolidation. This is the 10th year as a part of USD 422 Kiowa County.
The 21st Century Learning Academy is a virtual school available to students statewide. Students do the majority of their course work online via one of the two software programs. The 6th - 8th grade students and the adult students use the A+ Learning System software, and the 9th-12th grade students use the FuelEducation software. Students are enrolled in two courses at a time. As they finish a course, another course is added. Each student accepted into the program has their credits checked to determine what courses they need in order to obtain their diploma. Each student is also paired up with a mentor who helps keep them on track and answer questions that arise. The school accepts students from all over the state of Kansas, but do not accept out-of-state students. For the majority of the courses, either a USD 422 Kiowa County or USD 474 Haviland teacher is the teacher of record. They are responsible for grading work and assigning grades. Students are able to do the majority of the course work virtually. If they run into problems, or when they are ready for a final exam, in-person staff time may be scheduled in libraries on a weekly or monthly basis all over the state to work with the students. Students are also required to attend a library site to take final exams with a staff member. Currently, staff is located in libraries in Ulysses, Liberal, Hugoton, Kinsley, Pratt, Wichita, Salina, Emporia, Manhattan and the Kansas City area. These locations change based on student need. There are also students who come to the office in Greensburg to receive assistance and take exams.
The majority of the students who enroll have not been successful in a traditional brick and mortar building for one reason or another. They may have attendance or behavior issues that have kept them from being in school on a regular basis. They may have health issues that have not allowed them to return to a traditional school. The school also enrolls students who struggle with social anxiety and may not be able to work in a regular school setting, as well also the occasional student who simply wants to finish high school quicker and move on to the next chapter in their life. Many of the adult students have realized that they need a high school diploma in order to advance or obtain a higher level position when entering the workforce. These are students that may have either dropped out of high school at one time, or simply did not attend school all the way through graduation. They now understand the value of a high school diploma and they are ready to make the commitment to obtain one.
“Our graduation ceremony is always my favorite time of the year,” Deterding said. “We conduct a graduation ceremony each May just like all of the brick and mortar schools. We invite all of our graduates to attend the ceremony. Typically, we have about half of our graduates show up for the ceremony. The feeling at this ceremony is so different than a normal high school graduation. The graduates are more excited about receiving their diploma, and the family members in attendance are so proud of their accomplishments.” To learn more about the diploma program, enrollment information can be found on the website www.mullinville.org, under the “Program Enrollment” tab.