Q&A: Jordan School District offering new online school

April 16, 2021

“We are building our courses and systems around engagement, including in-person group work, home visits, wellness checks, brain breaks, and monthly school community activities or service projects,” says Spencer Campbell, the principal of the new Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle School in Jordan School District (grades 7-8).

Campbell also emphasizes the need for both flexibility and predictability at his new virtual school.

Campbell will work alongside Ross Menlove, the principal of Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School (grades K-6) and Ammon Wiemers, the principal of Kings Peak High School (grades 9-12). Together, the three schools are part of Jordan School District’s Jordan Virtual Learning Academy, which opens this fall for families of students who want to remain online.

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person schools and forced students into online learning for a time. While some students and families struggled under an online learning structure, some actually preferred it. Jordan School District decided to honor that by continuing an online option for all grade levels K-12.

To learn more about his opportunity Sutherland Institute’s education policy fellow Christine Cooke Fairbanks sat down with Campbell to learn more.

Fairbanks: What’s your leadership vision for the virtual school? 

Campbell: Our leadership vision is connected with flexibility and predictability.

This looks a little different at each level. At the middle school level, we want students, families, and teachers to have the flexibility to learn when and where they want, and to have the predictability of a schedule that mirrors a brick and mortar school so that students can create partial schedules (in-person and virtual learning). 

Fairbanks: Virtual school has pros and cons depending on the student. Who is the right fit for this type of schooling?

Campbell: I don’t know if there is a “right fit,” but flexibility and adaptability are key factors in our situation.

We are doing something that hasn’t necessarily been done before. Because of this, parents and students need to be flexible. Similarly, our students and families are choosing this option because of particular reasons. We need to be understanding and accommodating to those reasons and help students learn and grow no matter where they are academically and socially. 

Fairbanks: Online has not been good for some students. What interventions are there for those who choose but start to struggle?

Campbell: We are really focusing on engagement. We are hiring engagement aides to work in conjunction with teachers and administration to keep all students engaged.

We are building our courses and systems around engagement, including in-person group work, home visits, wellness checks, brain breaks, and monthly school community activities or service projects.

Fairbanks: COVID-19 changed education in a short amount of time and may be a catalyst for more innovation. How do you envision public education in five years from now?

Campbell: I really see parents and students having an a la carte education option. We see a lot of these options at universities as they open lecture series or classes to the public and have created “anywhere” classes. I feel like this is where public education is moving towards “the anywhere, anytime classroom.” 

Information – including registration, FAQs, and social media content – about each of the schools in the Jordan Virtual Learning Academy can be found here.

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