Families looking for a less traditional, more flexible public school option, have a COOL option. Collaborative Opportunities for Online Learning is a full-time, tuition-free, independent study program offered through the Rescue Union school district where students in grades three through eight complete the bulk of their studies online.
Open since the start of the 2011-12 school year, COOL is headquartered in a large classroom on the perimeter of the Lake Forest Elementary campus and currently enrolls 22 students.
“It is open to children in the Rescue Union district, but also to children in El Dorado County or any county that touches ours,” said director Sheila Simmons. “Our students have access to the same services and programs — library, nurse, food, etc. — that all the other public school students in the district receive.”
At COOL students use an interactive, online curriculum called Odysseyware, a standards based learning management system. At their own pace students complete standards-based online coursework, receive varied assessments and are able to be re-taught or accelerated through the coursework on an individual basis.
“It engages today’s students and the online content prepares them for the digital world and 21 century careers,” said Simmons.
Credentialed teacher Kelly Brancoli keeps tabs on students’ online progress and can tell where help is needed. Under her guidance, students come to the classroom on campus a minimum of two-and-a-half hours, twice a week, or more. There they do hands-on activities to supplement their online education.
“COOL is 180 degrees from a traditional classroom,” said Brancoli. “I take more of a manager role with students and I get to know them a lot better. For an online school, it’s incredibly personal.” On any given day or time only a handful of students out of the 22 enrolled are physically in the classroom.
Who would be a good candidate for COOL?
“A student who is motivated and gets a lot of support at home,” said Brancoli. “This is great for parents who have considered homeschooling, but do not want to reinvent the wheel. Here, their children get the best of both worlds: a homeschool experience, but we also provide the curriculum and the credentialed teacher.”
Some of their students are competitive, traveling athletes. Another is a model often away at shoots in San Francisco. “Some kids just aren’t thriving in a traditional school setting,” said Brancoli. “Yet the goal is still to transition kids back into mainstream school.” COOL operates on a traditional school year schedule.
Students like eighth-grader Charlie thrive in the environment. “It’s peaceful and quiet here,” he said with a sigh.
Simmons added, “In two years, we’ve never had a single discipline problem.”
For more information call (530) 672-4805 or visit rusd-ca.schoolloop.com/COOL .