DES MOINES, Iowa – Des Moines Public Schools Virtual Campus receives recognition by the Department of Education to be a stand alone online school.
DMPS Virtual Campus Director and Principal Jon Mendoza said the recognition allows students from across the state to enroll in the program.
The program started during the 2018-2019 school year as a pilot program with 75 students.
“In the traditional school a lot of students can fit in that mold where here is school and here are the things that just happen around school. School is still eight to four. We are just flipping that model to partner with students and take life first, whatever is happening in your life and fit school around their life events,” Mendoza said.
In its second year, the program serves over 200 students and has 14 staff members.
Sophomore Eleanor Bernsten left a traditional school setting to pursue a career in the music industry.
“I try to get most of my school work done on Monday’s and Tuesday’s and then I save the rest of the week for meetings, recording and all that other good stuff,” Bernsten said.
Bernsten is signed with the local label Station 1 Records.
Senior Marcella McIntosh said she left a traditional school setting to focus more on her academics.
“I really wanted to because, it was just easier for me to get stuff done if I wasn’t being bothered by a bunch of other students who don’t care. That was the biggest thing at my old school. There would be a bunch of kids that would ruin it for the rest because they were talking, so we would get stuff done later,” McIntosh said.
Sophomore Addyson Hatting is looking to graduate early and save money to one day attend medical school.
“I’m also looking to graduate early and virtual campus has made that so much easier than going to traditional school or even home schooling,” Hatting said.
Students enroll in three to four courses each quarter. Students will be given a laptop, charger, jetpack for wi-fi and fitness watch for P.E.
“We are really trying to create that balance between passion and the access to a rigorous quality education and then life,” Mendoza said.
There are office hours throughout the week for students to meet with teachers and get extra help on assignments.
“We have a program set up where students are able to chat, text, call, video call and even screen share with our teachers at all hours of the day,” Mendoza said.
Hatting said she keeps coming back, because of the teacher guidance and support.
“It’s so cool cause the teachers feel like my friends as much as my classmates do, and it’s so cool to learn from someone who have that relationship with and respect for,” Hatting said.
The program can have up to 400 students right now. As the program continues to grow, more staff members will be added to support larger class sizes.