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Online school lets students learn from home

December 2, 1997

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ When Luke Levesque takes his computer class next semester, all he’ll have to do is roll out of bed, turn on his computer and read his teacher’s instructions.

The 11th-grader from Winter Park High School is one of 250 high school students expected to enroll in the state’s only online school, The Florida High School.

``I’m a lot more comfortable at home,″ said Levesque, 16, who already takes a computer class online through a pilot program. He said his school’s media center is too noisy to study.

The new online school will offer students from two counties classes in algebra, American government, chemistry, economics and Web page design.

Other states, including California, Nebraska, New Jersey and Washington, already offer online classes to students in a manner similar to correspondence classes.

Florida’s program is unique in that there will be daily contact between the student and teacher through electronic mail, or by telephone, said Julie E. Young, co-principal of the new school.

Students, who can begin enrolling today for next month’s classes, also will have to go to a regular school to attend their other classes.

During this past semester, a pilot program for The Florida High School offered students an SAT prep course and four computer programming classes.

If all goes as planned, however _ three years from now _ Florida High students will be able to take all of their classes by computer.

Once that happens, students will be able to earn their high school diplomas without having to set foot in a classroom.

``We see this as one of the greatest technological advances that education has seen,″ said state Education Commissioner Frank Brogan.

The online high school could help Florida’s overcrowding problem, if thousands of students enroll as predicted in the next century.

Still, the Florida Legislature recently approved $2.7 billion in construction bonds to help Florida’s aging schools. Online classes received just $1.3 million this year, with $1.7 million sought for next year.

The online classes will help students in rural areas that are short of resources, students with jobs, high-achievers who want to get ahead and students who just don’t like school, Ms. Young said.

``The student that will succeed is a student motivated for success and in control of managing his own time,″ she said.

So far, six full-time teachers have been assigned to the online school in Orange County, and three full-time teachers will handle online classes in Alachua County.

In the pilot program, Levesque opened a daily e-mail from his teacher, Linda Hayes, with instructions for his assignment for the Advanced Placement class. When he was done, he e-mailed the work back to her for grading.

To prevent cheating, students take their final exams in person.

Ms. Hayes said she has a nose for when a student is cheating, and has already busted two students who copied each other’s work.

``Most of the things you see in a regular classroom, you pick up online,″ Ms. Hayes said. ``You pick up the personalities and you know the kid who is a real go-getter and the one who isn’t.″

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