Academics: Pittsville students take AP class virtually

01/25/2015

PITTSVILLE — Advanced placement classes are common in today's high schools. The classes allow students to earn college credits, ultimately saving time and money on their future education.

Sometimes, though, class sizes are too small to warrant a full class.

That hasn't stopped students at Pittsville High School, with 200 students in grades nine to 12, from taking courses that include AP Statistics.

Juniors Lindsey Winterheck, 16, Olivia Pelot, 17, and senior Paul Baum, 18, have exhausted just about all the math classes the school could offer. With career aspirations that include physician assistants and computer scientists, the students welcome the opportunity to get a head start on their future.

In addition to their regular curriculum with their peers, the trio take an AP Statistics class with a teacher in Hayward — but they never leave the grounds of their own high school.

"This classroom is connected to several other classrooms around the state, via high-tech, digital audio, video and computer technology," said Mark Wedding, Pittsville High School principal. Wedding also serves on the governing council for the Northern Wisconsin Educational Communications System.

The system lets students at small, rural schools take courses that otherwise might not be feasible; Pittsville is one of more than 50 high schools and colleges participating. Other options include AP Biology, AP Psychology and more. At times, a teacher from Pittsville is involved, as well.

Every day, the students "meet" with instructor Rob Frenchick via long-distance learning. In a classroom equipped with two cameras, the three interact with their classmates in other locations.

"It's really no different than having a teacher here," Olivia said.

The students communicate with their teacher by email. Frenchick, they said, is prompt in responding to questions. A part of the class also is devoted to discussing any questions.

Frenchick's teaching is fast-paced, but Lindsey appreciates that challenge.

"That is something I had to get used to when I first started with the class," she said.

She and Olivia plan to take more classes with Frenchick next year.

The students believe they are held even more accountable than in a traditional class. The three recently completed a statistical project to determine whether their male and female schoolmates perceive illusions differently. They gave their presentation on Thursday to their fellow classmates, who watched from different locations. At first it seemed awkward, with no one actually in the classroom, but they soon felt at ease.

The students said they've exhausted the math class options at the school and appreciate the chance to take on more.

"I like it for the challenge," Paul said.

By Deb Cleworth

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