East Rowan has made some very impressive strides as they provide for the educational needs of their students. Under the leadership of Tonya German, principal, East Rowan took a risk and initiated this process by making the option of teaching available for students to take Civics and English IV through an online format.
Chad Mitchell, Social Studies Teacher, and Jodie Lohmeyer, English Teacher, indicated that they noticed that many of their students were taking online courses through NCVPS (NC Virtual Public School), and CCP (Career & College Promise. This established that there was a demand for online course offerings. East Rowan’s Teacher Led Design Team moved forward with adding the Virtual Academy to the Renewal Plan. This portion of their Renewal Plan received School Board approval, and they will begin the implementation of the Virtual Academy in the Fall of 2020 where they will offer more course options for students.
The purpose of the Academy is to provide for the educational needs of our students. East Rowan will provide the flexibility for their students to complete coursework in the manner that works best for them. Students may work from their homes, or they may work from our Virtual Learning Lab. Additionally, if students need to have a seated class for a particular subject, that will be provided through the traditional East Rowan High School course framework. “With this being the first official year of operation, we fully expect our purpose to be fulfilled through the first students who enroll and begin taking coursework through our Virtual Academy,” says Lohmeyer and Mitchell.
For this school year, East Rowan High School has approximately 180 students who have taken the virtual option for Civics and/or English IV. Amongst those students were Cha’Maya Rawls Harris and Caroline Houpe.
Cha’Maya finished her graduation requirements in December 2019, making her an early graduate. While in high school, Cha’Maya was having difficulty finding a reliable childcare provider for her daughter. She went to school and worked a part time job in order to meet the needs of her family. At the beginning of this school year, Cha’Maya met with her school counselor, Bradshaw. The two of them developed a plan that would give Cha’Maya the opportunity to have a modified school day, completing classes during the day, two virtual classes, and being able to graduate in December. Cha’Maya indicated that she did not think it was going to happen but the principal, Tonya German, along with Mrs. Bradshaw, were very supportive.
Cha’Maya admits that the work was challenging. “I had to learn to work independently and pace myself so I could be done by the end of the semester,” discloses Cha’Maya. “If I got behind in my virtual classes, it took me a while to get caught up. My teachers, Mitchell and Lohmeyer, went out of their way to help me. Cha’Maya says she formed good relationships with her teachers because they showed that they wanted her to be successful. “They motivated me to keep going. It felt really good having so much support from them.” Cha’Maya says it was the best decision she made for her daughter. She plans to continue working and enroll in Rowan Cabarrus Community College in the fall.
Caroline Houpe, a May 2020 graduate at East Rowan High School, was also enrolled in the virtual English IV and Civics courses. Caroline was introduced to the virtual classes during her junior year. She indicated that she took an integrated course during her junior year and enjoyed it. When the opportunity arose for her to do it her senior year, she did not hesitate to add the virtual integrated course to her schedule. “The classes worked well with my schedule because going to school, an internship, basketball practices and games, created a long day for me.” Caroline’s assignments were due once each week on the same day. “My teachers were really good at making sure I knew how to do my work and they were available to help anytime I needed them.” Caroline had such a good experience in her virtual integrated classes that she said she would do it all over again if she had to. It was less stressful, prepared her to manage her time better, and taught her to work more independently. Caroline will be attending and playing basketball at Concord University in the fall.
Open to all
Chad Mitchell, Social Studies Teacher, and Jodie Lohmeyer, English Teacher, were instructors for the virtual courses that were taught this year. According to Mitchell and Lohmeyer, the purpose of the Virtual Academy is to offer courses in an online format that are available to students from around the Rowan-Salisbury School District. Students have a wide variety of educational, social, emotional, and individual pursuit needs. Through the Virtual Academy, students who are currently enrolled in public schools, private schools, charter schools, and/or homeschools can take a few courses or all of their courses through the Virtual Academy.
The Virtual Academy offers the opportunity for students to complete their high school learning experience in a manner that works best for both them and their families. All of their courses will be designed by teachers within the Rowan-Salisbury School System, and will be actively taught by East Rowan’s teachers as well. Students are able to complete coursework on a schedule that suits their individual needs and circumstances.
Mr. Mitchell and Mrs. Lohmeyer both agree that the virtual courses they have taught during the 2019-20 school year, have significantly increased course personalization and student choice. Course teachers make every effort possible to maximize these two characteristics. By designing a course in a manner that allows student choice in assignments, and course topics, instruction becomes focused on the individual student, and learning becomes more personal for the student. “Additionally, courses through our Virtual Academy have a strong focus on Project/Problem Based Learning, where students are given the opportunity to employ their knowledge while creating products and solutions to topics of their choice,” states Mitchell and Lohmeyer.
In the fall, East Rowan’s Virtual Academy will offer a full-slate of courses to allow for a complete student experience. There are some classes that do not lend themselves toward a virtual option, for example, carpentry; however, they have committed to offering the courses that are chosen by the students during the course registration process.
East Rowan’s Virtual Academy is a wonderful option for all students. The classes are inclusive and the instructors go above and beyond to assure students succeed in the program. East Rowan is on the move!
Students who are interested can find more information under the “Academies” tab at the East Rowan School Webpage. The Virtual Academy application can be found in that same space, or here: East Rowan Virtual Academy Application.
For parents and caregivers around Rowan County, the Thursday morning following the close of the 2021-22 school year went one of two ways. The lucky clutched mugs of hot coffee, gazing dreamily on the sight of dozing children taking full advantage of one of summer break’s many perks: sleeping in.