Waipahu School Goes High-tech Via Virtual Classrooms

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - June 16, 2010
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Hawaii Technology Academy, a new charter school that combines virtual learning with classroom instruction, celebrated its one-year anniversary with a festive dinner May 14 at the Pagoda Hotel’s C’est Si Bon ballroom.

The school, which was chartered by the state Charter School Administrative Office in 2008, provides families with Internet access and a learning coach so that lessons can be conducted online.

Students in kindergarten through fifth grade are given desktop computers and printers, and those in grades six and up are given laptops to work with from home. They then attend a traditional classroom with teachers one to three times a week at the 10,000-square-foot learning center in Waipahu, located near Times Supermarket and Tanioka’s.

Classes at the learning center supplement virtual studies in language arts, science, math and history. According to the school’s Web site, students spend no more than 25 percent of their time on the computer and the rest is with their learning coaches.

After the first year of this hybrid school model, head of school Jeff Piontek noted that the Internet is great, but it doesn’t always work.

“The good thing is that if the Internet goes down, the instructional material and textbook is available to students,” he added.

Parent Nancy Parker said she enjoys the flexibility of serving as a learning coach for her son Max’s fifth-grade education: “I like being involved. It’s good because you don’t have to worry about things like lunch and school buses.”

Ana Matsumoto, who teaches language arts to middle and high school students, said this is the best of both worlds.

“We can help them at home at any given time,” she said. “One of our math teachers holds tutoring sessions in the evenings, so if the kids need help he jumps onto their online classroom and holds sessions there.

“And we have the face-to-face interaction as well, which the kids really enjoy. This is a partnership between the learning coach, the teacher and the students.”

HTA started out with 250 students and has grown to have 25 teachers and 500 students in grades K-11. Next year it will add grade 12.

Funding is from the state Department of Education and a company that provides online curriculum.

The academy is located at 94-810 Moloalo St. For details, call 676-5444 or log on to www.hawaiitechnologyacademy.org.

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