South Portland High School expands online courses

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Students at South Portland High School will be able to take an advanced graphic design course as soon as next fall.

Superintendent Suzanne Godin said the School Board on Monday night unanimously endorsed the new course, which will not increase education costs.

The board also nominated Richard Carter as its chairman and Ralph Baxter Jr. as vice chairman. A formal vote will take place Dec. 7 at City Hall. 

Godin said the graphic design course will replace the career-prep class with the lowest enrollment. The course, which will be taught by Julie York, will have a heavy online component, since it will only meet about once a week.

Students will be able to move past the basics of photo editing to learn how to make professional presentations, Godin said. 

The school decided to try its own hybrid online course after a successful implementation of Virtual High School, a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that offers content-rich, credit-bearing high school courses to students across the country and around the world. The Virtual High School offers students nearly 350 online courses. 

Last school year, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth high schools teamed for a small school membership in VHS. The two communities, along with Scarborough, are three of the more than 30 Maine high schools participating in the program. 

This year, Godin said South Portland is participating in VHS through its own membership, which increases the number of students able to enroll from 15 to 25. The VHS membership fee was $4,750 last year and $5,500 this year.

Godin said the online courses require more self-discipline from students, but will allow them to get used to the demands of college, which are increasingly turning to online courses.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our kids to experience something they will be seeing in college,” Godin said. “(The courses) are open to all students, but they are very rigorous, so we only recommend them for juniors and seniors.” 

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or