Community Open House for I∙School set for Thursday | SierraSun.com

Community Open House for I∙School set for Thursday

Sally Slack
Special to the Bonanza

I∙School graduate Annika Hansen shows off her acceptance to the University of Alaska, where she is now studying Aviation Technology.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Nic, 7, has had a tough time with reading. Right now, he is at a computer focused on a game, "Packing Pig Goes To Work." As he identifies more and more letters correctly, a balloon grows larger and larger in a chute over a smiling pig's head.

Suddenly, the balloon discharges out of the chute and pops open. Nic giggles uncontrollably, ready to play the next round of the game.

In the next room, Kathryn Kelly, DrPH MEd, is director of I∙School, Lake Tahoe's most unique educational setting. She monitors her computer screen closely. As Nic hits different milestones in the game, she confers with his mother.

"He's doing well identifying letters," she says, pointing to data from the game based on artificial intelligence. "Here, though, he's having difficulty with initial consonant sounds. Let's try using a splitter headphone to determine whether he's simply unable to focus or is actually unable to understand the concept."

Kelly's approach to education is one that's becoming more and more accepted in the world of academics. I∙School, the private, non-profit school she founded in 2011, offers students of all ages a year-round, blended learning environment that tailors the curriculum to each unique student's aptitude, interests, and competencies while following professionally developed and national standards for education. Students are invited to enroll at any point during the year on either a part-time, full-time, tutoring or just-for-fun basis.

I∙School has now graduated four students from 12th grade, including Annika Hansen. Hansen is now studying Aviation Technology at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, where she is also a member of the university ski team.

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Because I∙School can customize academic material to meet a student's learning style, abilities, and needs, students have more control over time, pace, and place. The result is true mastery of academic content — Kelly calls it "proficiency-based learning" — and gains in student confidence which are sometimes lost in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting.

Since the school retains nonprofit status, it is able to provide scholarships to those in need. Families that can afford the full tuition agree their monies will be used for supplies, materials, teaching salaries and to help supplement the scholarship program.

It's a win-win situation for everyone, says Kelly. I∙School is now looking at ways to serve more families in the broader Reno, Sparks, and Carson City areas.

To learn more about blending learning and how to support students in the community, I∙School is hosting a Community Open House between 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 889 Alder Ave. in Incline Village.

Students and teachers will be demonstrating a variety of learning techniques, including a wet lab, so that visitors will be able to experience first-hand how blended learning works. Dr. Kelly can be contacted at 775-831-2423.

Sally Slack is a volunteer with I∙School. Visit ischools.us to learn more.