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Austintown creates dedicated e-learning space

AUSTINTOWN — “Flexible” is the word to associate with the Austintown E-Learning Center, the school district’s new dedicated online learning space.

The center is located in the old Lynn Kirk building at 4211 Evelyn Road.

“The idea is we’re going to be really flexible,” said William Young, district curriculum director. “We want to meet the families where they are.”

The five-classroom space will serve students enrolled in the district’s online learning program, which has been in place for 10 years, but up to this point has been based out of the district’s various academic buildings. Last year, some 100 students in grades 3-12 participated in the program.

The new site can currently accommodate about the same number of students, and is now open for K-12 students — allowing younger students to benefit from e-learning.

Angela Kopp, dean of online programs, will oversee the site. Kopp has 25 years of experience as an educator, with 19 in Austintown. For 18 years, she has worked as an intervention specialist helping students with special needs. Last year, she worked with special-needs students taking online courses, and recognized the potential of the flexible learning style, she said.

“We’re going to be able to meet the needs of these students,” Kopp said. “All accommodations and all types of learning styles will be met. You don’t usually see that in an online program.”

She added online learning is applicable for a “wide spectrum” of students.

The program targets students with anxiety, depression and other mental concerns — which are on the rise among students — that make traditional face-to-face learning difficult. But online learning will also benefit students with physical disabilities, gifted students in accelerated online courses and students who travel for sports, music, or other reasons.

“The end game is it’s going to help all students,” Kopp said.

The district will offer a full-day online program that includes school breakfast and lunch and recess for younger kids, as well as half-day morning and afternoon sessions and a potential work-from-home option for special circumstances.

A full-time intervention specialist will be on-site, as well as certified tutors for each subject, all through the district.

The online curriculum is through ACE Digital Academy, which has the motto “a customized education.” The program allows students to see their grades at any time, and students can chose between reading written information, having information digitally read to them, or watching video classes. The program was chosen through teacher and student feedback, and it meets all the state education requirements.

The district has been working on the expanded online learning program since December, but modified the space for COVID-19 concerns.

Classrooms are set up to allow a minimum six-foot distance between students, and teachers will likely change classrooms so students can remain at one desk, Young said.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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