Students round out learning experience with online summer courses

Despite the empty hallways and lack of chatter within the Mitchell High School, students are still hard at work.

For the fourth year in a row, MHS students are taking online summer courses, and attendance is holding steady, according to Shane Thill, vice principal and director of Second Chance High.

Thill said, on average, between 25 and 35 students take the classes each summer, with 26 enrolled this year. The online summer courses are available in world history and personal finance.

While several students take online classes in the summer to get ahead, many are taking the courses to prepare for their high school career, where online studies are becoming more prominent.

“We want to give them an opportunity to do an online course before they become a junior or senior and they take dual credit courses online,” Thill said. “That way they have the experience and understand how to operate in an online format and it’s not foreign to them.”

A majority of the online students are incoming freshmen and sophomores, Thill said. But another large chunk of MHS students are also taking dual-credit courses. This state program allows high school students in grades 11-12 to take dual credit coursework at South Dakota post secondary institutions.

Students who take Mitchell’s online summer courses also can enroll in the state’s dual-credit courses. And Thill said the reason students take these courses is because they won’t have the opportunity during the regular school year.

Students who are heavily involved in extracurricular activities will take summer courses to open up their schedule the following year, or take classes geared toward their interest or future career field.

“It just shows how innovative the Mitchell School District is as well,” he said. “We’ve really opened the door for our high school students to really reach out and do any type of course that they would like to do, through through dual credit, online or face to face.”

While interest in the classes stays steady, Thill said the district isn’t looking to add any more online courses at this time.

But, Thill added, that could change should students show a stronger interest in the classes or another area.

“Like I always tell people, if Mitchell High School students can’t find their niche, then they aren’t looking very hard because we have so many opportunities, and that’s one thing that’s really unique to the Mitchell School District,” Thill said.

‘Rest and refocus’

While some students opt to continue learning into the summer, math teacher Melanie Jacobson said this is also time for a much-needed break.

“Sometimes it’s nice. I like how education has a cycle, where they study for a semester and then have a break,” she said. “Some students need that reset and refocus.”

Despite students taking time to relax, Jacobson said she’s noticed an increased interest in online classes and students engaging in education activities during the summer.

The school offers one other summer option in the school year called credit recovery, according to Thill. This face-to-face teaching is for students who need to recover credits in classes such as English, math or science.

But for those who aren’t opting for extra education over the summer, Jacobson encourages students to use this break as a time to research careers and college, and “stop and think” what their future holds.

“Summer break is a break for some kids to do that, and reflecting on what they want to do with their life,” she said. “I also think it’s valuable experience.”