Hayden High obtains new distance-learning lab

Hayden High School seniors Jesse Woods (marine biology) and Skylar Powell (psychology), enrolled in the distance learning program, look forward to experiencing a virtual classroom setting.

Hayden High School seniors Jesse Woods (marine biology) and Skylar Powell (psychology), enrolled in the distance learning program, look forward to experiencing a virtual classroom setting.

Hayden High School is one of four Blount County high schools in their second years of the state’s Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide (ACCESS) distance learning program.

ACCESS is an education program that utilizes online and interactive video conferencing (IVC) to provide Alabama public high school students the opportunity to participate in a broad range of courses, including Advanced Placement, and electives which may not be included in their basic curriculum.

“Students are no longer limited to certain coursework because they live in a rural area or because there are not enough students in a school to make up a class. This distance learning program provides students with learning opportunities they otherwise would never have,” says Allen Hargett, principal of Hayden High School.

This year Governor Riley implemented ACCESS labs in all 371 Alabama high schools. Currently, Alabama is the only state to offer IVC and web-based learning in all high schools. This school year upcoming freshmen are required to take at least one distance learning class through the First Choice graduation proposal, adopted by the Alabama State Board of Education.

Hargett anticipates more involvement to come from the students. “We are very excited about this virtual classroom though we are still in the trial-and-error phase of the program. This year we not only have a full-time ACCESS support worker, who is certified with the ACCESS program, but we also have 30 new computer workstations to facilitate more students,” says Hargett. These computer workstations are a very special addition to the school’s lab. “Our school funded all of the lab’s workstations and they were built by our high school trade school students in the wood workshop at the Blount County Career Technical Center in Cleveland.”

Hayden High School was one of the first schools, along with J.B. Pennington and Locust Fork, to receive ACCESS grant funding to establish the labs. Along with the most up-to-date technology and learning capabilities available, every Alabama high school will additionally be provided with a minimum of 10Mb of bandwidth (data transfer) to ensure Internet connectivity will not become a barrier.

“We are still working through class scheduling with the IVC instructors, but we look forward to launching soon,” says Lloyd Reddick, the school’s ACCESS Lab Facilitator. “There are several students in the lab during each period and the numbers are rising. The counselors are adding students onto the program daily.” There are currently four Hayden High School teachers who are certified ACCESS instructors. Teachers participating in the ACCESS distance learning program are required to start instruction after school hours and are paid for their time of instruction.

With technology becoming a greater influence in our everyday lives, it is imperative that Alabama students stay competitive and prepared for the future. So far, it appears that the new ACCESS lab is paying off for many of Hayden High School’s students.

“We are very proud to be one of the first schools in Blount County to receive a 91 percent graduation rate. The distance learning lab will also be aimed at recovering students who are behind. Along with the Blount County Career Focus Program, we can continue to strive to keep our children motivated to stay in school,” says Hargett.