Online classes tailor high school to students

Online Options is an alternate education opportunity for students that enables them to take some or even all of their classes online, or to supplement their regular class schedule with online, after-school classes.

“Not every student learns the same way,” said Kati Carthum, with the Bremerton School District.

Carthum is the digital education coordinator for BSD. She oversees Online Options, an alternate education opportunity for students that enables them to take some or even all of their classes online, or to supplement their regular class schedule with online, after-school classes.

Online Options is for Bremerton students in grades nine through 12. Participating students are required to meet with their school counselor “to determine what classes are appropriate for them to take,” and after enrolling in the program, even full-time, online students will need to visit the high school campus once a week to meet with their liaison.

“Our alternative learning program … is a replacement for brick-and-mortar education,” Carthum said.

Students can replace one or more regular school periods with online classes, or even take all of their classes online.

Not only do different people learn in different ways, meaning what’s effective for one student’s education isn’t necessarily effective for another, but also, “not everyone has the same life circumstances,” according to Carthum. Some students may have a home, work or other situation that means a regular school day isn’t always the best option.

“We want to provide as many options for students as are feasible,” Carthum said. “Sometimes, especially in the case of the alternative learning, students need a little more flexibility in terms of their schedules, so they’re able to still get the education they need, but be able to flex the time a little bit more around their own schedule.”

The other option is an after-school, lab-based program. Participating students still have full-time school days, but take extra classes online after school.

One reason to do this might be to graduate high school early, but it’s not the only reason.

“Sometimes it’s to get a prerequisite out of the way, or open up their schedule for a class they want to take (that) they wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Carthum said.

For example, some classes are only offered at specific times, and required, core classes might get in the way of electives a student wants to take. The after-school program could enable the student to do both.

And though most of the online classes taken are core classes, Carthum said there are many offered electives that are popular as well.

“It’s a nice, wide range of classes available for students to take,” she said.

Carthum said they use Ed Options Academy for their online courses (visit edop to learn more or view their offered classes). The BSD lets student take most of the available courses through Ed Option Academy, though only if the teacher is certified to teach in Washington, which can occasionally mean a specific class isn’t available in the district.

But using an outside company doesn’t mean that it’s not a BSD program. The program is still overseen by BSD employees.

“One of the benefits of having an online program based in our own district … is that they have someone in the district to work with them, to meet with once a week, to help them out if they’re struggling, to provide that kind of support and connection … that you don’t necessarily get with an online statewide program,” Carthum said.

Currently, there are 21 students in the alternative-learning program, and 17 in the after-school program. Both programs have “rolling enrollment,” meaning students can enroll between semesters, instead of having to wait until the next school year.

“It’s been growing,” Carthum said. “Slowly but steadily. We didn’t want to fling the doors open … (because) it’s not the right fit for everybody.

“We wanted to make sure the students who are in it are getting what they need out of the program, and that we have enough support for all of them, as well.”

Other alternative education options offered in BSD include Renaissance High School, “a contractual and individualized alternative learning experience,” and Homelink, a parent-school partnership program for kindergarten through eighth grade that is a combination of homeschooling and in-school education.

To learn more about alternative education options, visit