Virtual school gets real for graduation

Students say online study helped them reach goals

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Joseph Bond hopes someday to be a professional hockey player. He might not have a shot if not for eDCSD, the online high school from which he recently graduated.

“It’s helped me follow my dreams,” said Bond, a Highlands Ranch resident.

Bond started high school at Rock Canyon, but switched to the online option when hockey took him on the road and out of state.

“The past two years, I get up, do my hockey and workout, then get on the computer in my room and just do my work,” Bond said. “It’s hard being away from all your friends. But it’s nice because I can work at my own pace.”

Bond so far has played hockey in Washington and Canada, and next year will join a team in Maine.

“My ultimate goal is to get as far as I can,” he said. “I want to try to get a scholarship to play in a Division 1 college school.”

eDCSD also helped Christina Griggs reach professional heights most high school students never could imagine. She already is a recognized expert in World War I German aviation, in large part because online school enabled her to travel, speak and study abroad.

“White-haired professors from around the world have consulted with me on various occasions, and are always shocked to learn that I am a teenage girl,” Griggs said in a speech she gave during the May 23 eDCSD graduation ceremony at Rock Canyon High School. “Two non-fiction authors have cited me in their published works, and a war museum in Poland has offered to fly me out to be featured as one their main curators and historians during a grand opening of a special aviation section.

“If I had continued to go to a brick-and-mortar high school, I doubt any of these endeavors would have been possible.”

Principal Sohne Van Selus is proud but not surprised by the stories from her 2013 graduates, the third eDCSD graduating class.

“People tell us we’re the best-kept secret in Douglas County when they find out about us,” she said.

About 250 students are enrolled in K-12 eDCSD, most of them high schoolers. They include athletes, actors, students who are ill or working, and those who simply don’t do well in a traditional setting.

Formerly an assistant principal at Rock Canyon, Van Selus said working as principal of an online school is not as dissimilar from leading a traditional school as it appears.

“I don’t get to walk down the hall and high-five kids like I used to when I was at Rock Canyon,” she said.

“But I do receive direct instant messaging. I’ll have students who, as though they were walking into my office, will send me a chat. They’re sharing information with me in a real-time fashion. It replaces the open-door policy I’ve always had.”

Like other principals, her main objective is to help students learn.

“It’s more about ensuring that students have an opportunity to really personalize their educational journey, select opportunities that fit them, allow them as an individual to meet their greatest potential through a different environment,” she said.

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