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Virtual Classrooms Join Lakeland, Yorktown Students

Paul Monaghan from Dobbs Ferry High School, left, and Nicholas Jacobino, Walter Panas High School, met with teacher Travis Hayes at a symposium in Yorktown Heights. Photo Credit: Karen Thornton
Sabrena Sabet, Lakeland High School, and Jesser Horowitz, Yorktown High School at Tuesday's BOCES symposium. Photo Credit: Karen Thornton

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. - Yorktown students being taught by Lakeland teachers?

The odd combination was made possible by Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES' Online Courses for the 21st Century (OC21). The program is only in its second year, but the innovative virtual high school program is quickly gaining momentum, especially among Yorktown students.

“We’re adding five new courses next year, and we’ve taken on four new districts this year,” said project coordinator Art Buchman at a symposium held on the Yorktown BOCES campus Tuesday.

Lakeland Central and Yorktown Central are two of the 12 school districts enrolled in the program this year.

Tuesday's symposium gave more than 50 students enrolled in the online program an opportunity to meet with their teacher — and each other — in a real classroom rather than a virtual one.

While the students said they appreciated meeting each other in the flesh, today’s generation is comfortable with an online presence, and OC21 allows high school students to take a class that might not be offered in their home school.

“This experience made me a lot more comfortable using a computer,” said Yorktown High School student Jesser Horowitz, who is taking the History of Media and Presidential Elections course taught by Travis Hayes, a teacher at Lakeland High School. “The only thing I wish was different about the course is that it was longer.”

Fellow online classmate Sabrena Sabet from Lakeland agreed.

“It’s a great program, and it’s really helpful for getting prepared for college,” she said.

Keeping students interested when they are not even in the same room in not an easy task, but Hayes said communication is key.

“We have a really high level of discussion going on in this class,” he said. “Right now the students are working on designing websites for a candidate in a mock presidential election.”

Among other online course offerings are Architecture, Introduction to Anthropology and Historical Geology and Paleontology.

While the novelty of online classrooms may have brought students to these classes, they said it’s the college preparation that keeps them coming back.

“I think this class has given me a more direct college experience,” said Nicholas Jacobino from Walter Panas High School. “You have to be on top of your work and more self-sufficient, which is great preparation for college.”

Jacobino doesn’t think that communication between his classmates has suffered from not learning together in the same room.

“I love the open discussion page on the website,” he said. “Everyone really expresses their ideas."

Learn more about OC21 on BOCES' website .

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