Transformation Award: For leading online learning initiatives in its state and leveraging online programs to continue learning when Hurricane Sandy hit.
Though New Jersey has no state-led online learning program, Lacey Township School District recognizes the importance of online education in creating expanded academic opportunities for students. To that end, last year, Lacey became one of the few districts in the state to launch an online learning program—Lacey Online Learning Academy (LOLA). LOLA seeks to have their online program be a catalyst for both the creation of blended learning options in their district and a source of inspiration for teachers to use digital content and online tools as a way to engage students.
LOLA began with the idea to use FuelEd’s credit recovery and homebound education solutions to help keep students on track for graduation and to serve their hospital/homebound students. The school first engaged a task force of key stakeholders including teachers, parents and students to gain feedback and buy-in for their plan. Before school began, LOLA facilitated three information sessions to educate parents and students about online education. Each of these sessions, held in the evening at the local high school, resulted in a packed auditorium of stakeholders who greeted the idea of online learning with enthusiasm.
In the first year, 160 students enrolled in at least one online course. Sadly, however, tragedy struck when Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey a short time thereafter. Most of the district was without power for at least 15 to 20 days, and the school was closed for a week. During this time, students without power or Internet access went to LOLA or a local library to continue their online schooling. Despite the challenges created by Hurricane Sandy, more than 70 percent of students taking online courses for the first time received passing grades, and many recovered critical credits needed to graduate.