Originally published in The Idaho Press Tribune – April 11, 2019
MERIDIAN — West Ada School District’s Rebound School of Opportunity is giving students another chance to earn their high school diploma in a nontraditional setting: four hours a day of computer time, no talking allowed.
A decade ago, Rebound was created in the school district for students who weren’t succeeding in traditional eight period schools or alternative academies. Rebound’s enrollment has since grown from 20 students to about 180. Funding for the school for the current academic year was $853,940 out of the district’s general fund.
Charles Maxwell, West Ada School District’s virtual education coordinator and a staff member at Rebound, said the school isn’t for children with delinquency problems as some might think; it’s for students facing a variety of challenges and are determined to earn a high school diploma.
“We have teen parents here, we have students with anxiety issues that just weren’t cutting it at the other larger schools, students with family issues, students with medical issues that because of our district attendance policy, there’s no way they would have been successful at the comprehensive high schools. We can be a little more flexible here,” Maxwell said.
Students are referred to Rebound by their home school counselors and have high success rates when entering the online course model. The school aims for students to complete one class every six weeks to graduate on time — some may finish in one or two weeks, others in seven or eight weeks if it’s a course they struggle in.
Taking one class at a time, Maxwell said, helps students focus, even if they have never taken an online course before.
“There are a lot of students who this is their first online course, but I always tell the students if you can use Facebook, you can use this course,” Maxwell said.
Although Rebound prohibits talking between students in the short time they are at the building on East Watertower Street in Meridian, teacher-student relationships are built with the help of curriculum from Fuel Education, an online course provider.
Maxwell said the idea of no talking may sound strange, but many Rebound students had social issues at previous schools, so the shortened and focused schedule helps them concentrate on the coursework.
Additionally, there are more opportunities for students to work closely with their teachers.
“All those things that teachers normally do in the classroom to differentiate instruction is built into the courses, so we can spend more time directly helping students rather than paperwork and crunching data,” Maxwell said. “It takes a lot of that prep work away from the teachers, so they can put more time into the students individually whether in person or online.”
In hand with Fuel Education curriculum, a teacher — local or remote — is available 24 hours, seven days a week for students who need help. The data and support it provides to help drive student success is essential, Maxwell said.
“The staff here go above and beyond to build relationships with students, and I think students feel very comfortable here,” he said. “It’s very warm and an inviting place and I think that’s the reason for such high success rates.”
To learn more about Fuel Education, visit https://www.fueleducation.com/