Several times during his monthly Coffee and Conversation forums, Owatonna Public Schools superintendent Jeff Elstad has said that new ideas on education will be one of the lingering effects of the pandemic. He has acknowledged that some students thrived during distance learning. Elstad indicated that Owatonna would look into offering an online school. That has now become a reality with Owatonna Online.

In the April Owatonna Schools newsletter announced the accredited online school along with a form to sign up for an informal webinar. April 14, 19 and 22 are dates for upcoming sessions.

Among the benefits listed for the K-12 online public school are support from licensed Owatonna Public School staff, live and independent learning opportunities, full class and small group live sessions, and a device provided to all students, along with internet access if needed.

The newsletter states, "Online courses that meet all the Minnesota educational and high school graduation requirements...Owatonna Online is a K-12 online public school open to all Minnesota students free of charge."

Elstad told the Owatonna High School Magnet and student reporter Valentina Contreras, "The pandemic has presented many challenges, but has also opened up new ideas and ways of doing things. We feel that having a fully-online option for school allows us to further personalize learning for students. Some students have discovered that learning online allows allows them to be the best student they can be for many different reasons."

Students can still participate in school activities. For more information contact Michelle Krell, director of teaching and learning at 507-444-8613 or mkrell@isd761.org.

Elstad is hosting an in-person Coffee and Conversation this Friday, April 16 at 9 am at the District Office. Contact Sarah Hoffman to reserve a spot by Wednesday, April 14 at 4 pm at 507-444-8610 or at shoffman@isd761.org.

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