Cayla Ontiveros spends her mornings online, perhaps spending time with friends or searching for a job.
Despite not setting foot in a classroom this school year, she is going to graduate from Hermiston High School in June.
Ontiveros, 18, is part of a growing online education program in the Hermiston School District. She takes Chemistry, Algebra II, English IV and career planning all online, usually finishing her work around 1 p.m.
“I feel like there’s a lot of wasted time at school,” Ontiveros said. “I can get my work done a lot faster.”
Last fall was the first experiment in online schooling for the district. With one semester of the classes down, the pilot program’s next goal is to offer more learning opportunities for current students.
This spring, traditional students can take advanced placement and language classes not offered at their brick-and-mortar institutions.
“It’s definitely geared toward self-motivated kids,” Hermiston online coordinator Abby Mattson said. “They need to be able to take initiative to get up every day, get on the computer and work.”
There are 48 Hermiston students enrolled in the online program, called K12. The K12 program is the most popular online school in the country. Teachers from across the U.S. work with the Hermiston students. The online students do all the things their in-school compatriots do: complete assignments, take tests and earn grades.
Most of the online students in the district are in high school or middle school, although a few gifted elementary school students take advanced online math and science classes.
Mattson said there are many reasons the students decide to go virtual.
“Some of them were home-schooled in the past,” Mattson said. “Some have medical issues, some are homebound, some have anxiety or are clinically depressed, a handful were not successful in traditional high school.”
Ontiveros said she enjoys the freedom online classes offer, but agreed that the program is not for everyone.
“It can get really hard when you start to procrastinate,” she said.
Ontiveros said she does sometimes miss the typical high school experience, but added she can still join clubs and participate in sports at Hermiston High School. She was glad when the district added the K12 online program because she could take virtual classes and still graduate with her Hermiston class.
“I still go to all the football games,” she laughed.
Eighth-grader James Nordquist thumbs through a German book while sitting in front of a computer in his Hermiston living room. The online German language class just started this spring, and Nordquist jumped at the opportunity.
Nordquist, 14, began the online program in the fall, after having trouble concentrating at school with other students around. He still drops by Armand Larive Elementary School every morning for gym class, but his academic subjects are done at home.
“I’m planning to attend high school next year,” James said. “Kids are a lot less rowdy in high school.”
James’ mom, Dawn Nordquist, home schooled him until middle school. She said she still wants James to have a traditional school experience, but that for now he does better learning on his own — for the most part.
“Sometimes I have to keep him on task,” Dawn said. “The video games call to him.”
Contact Natalie Wheeler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4547.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.