Millbury High virtual offerings, AP can expand students’ options – Millbury Sutton Chronicle

By Jan Gottesman
Millbury-Sutton Chronicle

MILLBURY – While some parents might hear “virtual learning” and think back to the drawbacks of COVID learning, Millbury High School has been doing virtual learning for a long time, through a program called Virtual High School.

Elizabeth Boutiette, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, updated the School Committee on the program at the Sept. 28 meeting, but at least two members were already familiar with the program. Chairperson Jennifer Nietupski’s daughter went through the program and member Nicholas Lazzaro was a student who took advantage of the classes.

Boutiette said by offering access to the pre-recorded classes as electives, it allows the schools not to limit the students’ choices. Because of the low numbers enrolled in each class, the district would not be able to maintain a staff member to teach the courses, but students can still experience them.

Currently, the most popular Virtual High School course among Millbury High School students is “Ghosts and Haunting in Literature,” with four students enrolled.

Three students are taking the class, “Sports and Society,” while two each are enrolled in “Animal Behavior and Zoology,” “AP Biology,” “Psychology of Crime” and “AP Music Theory.”

There is one student in each of the following courses, Boutiette said: “Creative Writing,” “One Hundred Ways to Write a Short Story,” “Pre-Veterinary Medicine Honors,” “Philosophy,” “Sociology,” “Criminology,” “International Business,” “Italian Language and Culture,” “AP Computer Science” and “Art History.”

“Most of these students are independently motivated,” Boutiette, though the schools’ media specialist, Rose Flaherty, is available to help with issues. While the students are watching pre-recorded classes, there are also opportunities to collaborate with other students across the Virtual High School system and the classes also offer opportunities to view other media about a subject.

Lazzaro said the program helped him get ready for college.

“I took a law course and investment in the stock market, and so many I can’t remember,” he said. With the “little bit of disconnect” from the instructors, he learned to be independent in his learning from him. “You learn to hold yourself responsible.”

Lazzaro said he would not recommend the program for an entire curriculum, but it was a good learning experience.

Nietupski said her daughter was one of the first students to take a Virtual High School class, in accounting, and is now a CPA.

Parents can access the full list of classes from the Millbury High School website in the program of studies. Another program available to students is advanced placement, or AP, classes, Boutiette said the AP courses carry “greater weight than honor courses and students can earn college credit or placement in more advanced college classes based on AP exam scores taken in May.

Currently, there are 23 Millbury High students taking AP languages, 11 each in literature and calculus, 19 in statistics, 10 in computer science principles, 12 in chemistry, 11 in environmental science, 10 in history and 20 in psychology. The district’s AP coordinator is Sarah Comeau.

“We have a partnership with Mass Insight so students enrolled in AP English, math or science classes have to attend two Saturday student sessions,” Boutiette said. The sessions include mock exams to get students prepared. The full list of AP classes is available on the website under program of studies.

Lazzaro said it was a “great route to figure out early what you want” to pursue after high school. He said private schools are looking for a score of 4 out of 5 on the exam, while some public schools will take a 3 out of 5 to consider for placement in a higher level, which can “save some money” on college courses, he said.

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