The Wentzville Way

The Wentzville School District began offering Launch courses to students in summer 2019. Read on to hear how the program played out in one of the state’s largest school districts. Summer school in the Wentzville School District looked a bit
By Savannah Waszczuk

The Wentzville School District began offering Launch courses to students in summer 2019. Read on to hear how the program played out in one of the state’s largest school districts.

Steven Pryor, Assistant Principal at Wentzville’s Liberty High School, likes the flexibility Launch offers to all students.

Summer school in the Wentzville School District looked a bit different this year. “Traditionally we’ve hosted a physical summer school and offered PE, Health and Personal Finance,” says Steven Pryor, who is the Assistant Principal at Wentzville’s Liberty High School and also leads summer school in his building. “Our goal is to offer more opportunities for our students to earn credit over the summer. Offering online courses helps our students who attend camps and don’t have transportation.”

For summer 2019, the district decided to offer some Launch courses in addition to offering them at the school. This online option was well received. “Launch provides students another opportunity,” Steven says. “Taking classes online with Launch fosters a little bit more independence, and it allows students more flexibility to engage in other activities during their summer.”

Getting Started

The Wentzville School District first partnered with Launch in February 2019. “What was really impressive to us was that Launch is a not for profit that puts students first and aligned to Missouri Learning Standards,” says Dr. Karen Hill, the Wentzville School District’s Director of Professional Learning.

District administrators also liked that Launch is a part of Springfield Public Schools, as that comes with its own series of benefits. “We felt Springfield Public Schools was able to provide us with rigor that matches our expectations,” Karen says. “We also like the fact that—very much like us in Wentzville—the Launch team wants to provide options for kids. They want to help kids. Philosophy wise, Wentzville is very much aligned with what Launch offers.”

Karen also mentioned Launch’s
customer service in her list of program benefits. The district has used several virtual course providers to offer students credit recovery courses. “Working with individuals on the Launch team—as opposed to going through large systems—feels different,” Karen says. That’s definitely a benefit to us.”

The Student Experience

Rising sophomore Nora Pryor, who attends Wentzville’s Timberland High School, took Physical Fitness with Launch during the June 2019 session. “To be quite honest, I had absolutely no clue what it was going to be like,” says Nora, who is the daughter of Liberty High School Principal Steven Pryor. “It was my dad who initiated the idea. I did immediately think an online class sounded cool, because that way I didn’t have to rearrange all of my other summer plans.” One of the plans Nora is referring to is her annual week at youth camp. “For me personally, that’s a  very important week during summer,” she says. “Since that camp is so important to me, I was happy to  be given an opportunity to complete a course more on my own time. Without Launch, I would not have been able to take the course
this summer.”

Nora Pryor took her first-ever online class—Physical Fitness—with Launch this summer.

After Nora first signed on to Canvas, Launch’s Learning Management System, she saw her course organized by units and noticed the assignments included due dates for the entirety of the class. “After I logged in to everything, it immediately just kind of all clicked,” Nora says. “Sure, it was a lot of content, because you’re fitting an entire semester’s class into a month. But you can work through all of the assignments at your own pace, and that was awesome. For this class we had written assignments that included essays, quizzes and tests, and we also had class discussions on a collaborative forum.”
In addition to the course’s written work and assignments, Nora also had to workout for her online class—students in all of Launch’s physical fitness courses are given a Garmin heart rate monitor to track their exercise. “In the beginning, it took me a while to find ways to get in workouts,” Nora says. “But now it’s a routine part of my day. Once I wake up, I am already thinking of ways I can fit in an hour workout.” But this isn’t a complaint. In fact, Nora liked developing an exercise routine, and she wants to continue working out even after the course. “I think we’re going to end up buying Nora a Garmin after she turns hers back in,” Her father says. “I think she’s grown accustomed to it. I think she’d feel like she was missing out if she didn’t have it on.”

Looking Ahead

As students and administrators file back into Wentzville School District buildings this fall, Launch will be around as well. “We will be testing out different courses through Launch next year,” Karen says. And Nora hopes the district will offer courses again in summer 2020 as well—the next time around, she may take Personal Finance. “For me, taking a class like PE or Personal Finance outside of the traditional school year is great, because I can get those credits completed and not take up time in my schedule,” Nora says. “I’m in band, too, and that takes up an hour every day and limits the other classes I can take. Taking some classes online in the summer helps me have more time to take the classes I want to take to go to college.”