The Virtual Journey at Fort Zumwalt

Savannah WaszczukAccess Launch, District Profiles

Learn how the Fort Zumwalt School District utilizes Launch to serve all types of learners, all year long.

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Vanessa Onuoha balances quite a busy schedule. In addition to taking a full course load at Fort Zumwalt West High School, she’s the
editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Solitaire. Outside of the school day, Vanessa serves on a leadership team and in the children’s ministry at her church, and she runs her own photography business. Oh, and did we mention that she teaches cooking and film literature classes at an area recreation center? Yes, and she’s only a senior in high school.

“I’m hoping to attend Stanford University after I graduate,” says Vanessa, who is currently enrolled in Launch’s Fine Arts Appreciation: Music class. “I would like to study digital humanities, which brings technology and people together.”

Providing students like Vanessa the opportunity for flexible scheduling is one of multiple reasons the Fort Zumwalt School District decided to partner with Launch. “I take seven classes at school, plus my Launch class online,” Vanessa says. “I needed to complete my fine art credit to graduate, but I didn’t have room in my schedule. Launch allows me to take this class on my own time, which works perfectly for me.”

The Decision to Partner

An administration team from Fort Zumwalt School District first met with Launch’s Director of Virtual Learning, Dr. Nichole Lemmon, in spring 2018. “It really came into play for a couple of reasons,” says Jennifer Waters, Fort Zumwalt School District’s Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “We knew Senate Bill 603 was coming down the pipe, and we wanted to be ready for that and ready to be able to offer our students opportunities. Additionally, we were really frustrated with the for-profit provider that we were using.”

Fort Zumwalt officially partnered with Launch in November 2018. “After meeting with Dr. Lemmon, we were really impressed with Launch’s
mission,” Jennifer says. “We were looking for something that would provide curriculum aligned to Missouri Learning Standards and taught by Missouri teachers. That’s exactly what Launch offers, and it’s based at a fellow Missouri school district.”

The administration team at Fort Zumwalt also appreciated how Launch provided course offerings for all types of students. “Launch offers programming for students who need credit recovery and students who need credit advancement,” Jennifer says. This means it can help those students like Vanessa—who are in need of adding an online class to build flexibility in their schedule—as well as students like Max Courtis, who recovered his English credit with Launch online last summer.

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“I’ve been with Fort Zumwalt for 18 years, and I’ve always taught summer school. This year was different, because we were able to talk with parents and work around vacations and things like that. Their summer plans weren’t halted.”

—Lynn Hudson, English Teacher

Utilizing Launchís Summer Offerings

Max was one of 800 some Fort Zumwalt students who learned with Launch in summer 2019. “I liked it because I could work on my class on my own time,” says Max, who also worked at a car wash six hours a day during his summer break. “I was able to sleep a little later, then work, then come home and work on my Launch class. I loved not having to be anywhere—like, I liked not having to come into the school—and I liked how I could work on my own time.”

Lynn Hudson, who is an English Teacher at Fort Zumwalt West High School, was Max’s online credit recovery teacher—in summer 2019, Launch hired and trained several Fort Zumwalt teachers to serve Fort Zumwalt students. “Launch allows a lot more flexibility for teachers and students,” Lynn says. “I’ve been with Fort Zumwalt for 18 years, and I’ve always taught summer school. This year was different, because we were able to talk with parents and work around vacations and things like that. Their summer plans weren’t halted.”

This benefited more than just the family’s schedules. “I think we saw a higher pass rate than in the past because of this flexibility,” Lynn says. “Students didn’t just drop out because it was too structured. They were able to make it work with their schedules.”

In addition to high school credit recovery, Fort Zumwalt also encouraged many middle school students to participate in summer remediation courses to better prepare them for the fall. Additionally, the district offered all high school students the chance to take Personal Finance and Health online. “Those are classes that students can take in the summer to build more room in their schedules for the following school year,” Jennifer says.

Opportunities for All

By offering a variety of courses in both the traditional school year and the summer, Launch is helping the Fort Zumwalt School District create opportunities for all types of students, all year long. Vicki Christopher, a counselor at West High, stresses the importance of this. “We really appreciate that Launch offers Credit Acquisition courses,” Vicki says.

Launch’s credit acquisition courses allow students to start earning first-time credit at any point in the semester. “I just enrolled a student yesterday who hasn’t been attending school,” Vicki says. “Having this rolling enrollment option is great—it is very unlike anything we’ve been able to offer with vendors we have utilized in the past.”    

Ft. Zumwalt at a Glance

K-12 Enrollment: 18,125
High School Population: 6,061
MASA District: Greater St. Louis
High Schools: East High School, North High School, Hope High School, South High School, West High School
Mission Statement: The mission of the Fort Zumwalt School District is to assure that its students, regardless of ability or economic level, are provided an education in such a positive and safe learning environment that they may all reach their potential. A strong commitment is made to promote the virtues of democracy, citizenship, self-discipline, work ethic, and the need to respect all members of society.

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