Zionsville students "work from home" on e-learning day

Zionsville students studied from home Tuesday.
Published: .
Updated: .

Put a big "E" with the "three Rs" students are learning in Zionsville. Home computers replaced teachers in Zionsville Tuesday, so the teachers could go back to school.

The experiment in electronic learning appears to be getting passing grades.

More than 1,000 students at Zionsville Middle School students were at home, on their computers, teaching themselves.

"I can sleep in a little bit and also feel like I can be just as productive as I would be if I was at school," said seventh grader Chris Doehring, with a big smile.

Meanwhile, Doehring's teachers were in class, in their students' desks, learning to be better teachers. Principal Kris Devereaux says that will lead to a better education.

"I absolutely believe that, 100 percent," Devereaux said without hesitation.

She sees teachers putting in a full work day, assessing their students' progress and tackling new classroom strategies and technologies.

"What we do for students is better every time we leave an e-day," Devereaux said.

Electronic learning days - or e-days - count as a real school day, sparing schools the additional costs of teacher training days. Without the e-learning arrangement, there is no way the school district could afford to hold six days a year to educate their educators.

Teachers work ahead and put their lessons online. They're able to answer questions via email. Doehring spent about four hours working through a half-dozen assignments, without much help from mom.

"He does his work independently, but he definitely has work. He's sitting down and doing it," said Doehring's mother, Marla.

But e-learning can be a struggle for families who can't rearrange work schedules and students like eighth grader Zack Burgon, who can become frustrated and distracted.

"At school, you got professionals teaching you and here you got...," before he could finish, Burgon started laughing and turned to his new stepfather.

Bill Cuthbert is patiently re-learning Algebra.

"You take the whole work day and plan around working with the children, with their homework and getting their assignments done," he said with a serious smile.

Administrators admit there have been a couple of hiccups with the new program. The area's cable system crashed on the first e-learning day. The Internet, not the family dog, nearly ate students' homework.

Two other school districts are experimenting with e-learning programs. They are all being watched by Indiana's Department of Education. If effective, they could become models for other communities to follow.