Rocky View Schools (RVS) has taken another step forward in developing the identity of their online schools, expanding their reach, and building upon their cultures.

Recently, the board of trustees approved permanent names for the two schools. It has also put measures in place to welcome students beyond the division's boundaries.

The elementary/middle school has been named Discovery Trails Online School and the high school is now Summit Trails Online High School.

“These new school names reflect the unique nature of our online educational environments and evoke a sense of exploration and achievement as students progress through each grade,” states board chair Fiona Gilbert in a news release. “The board thanks the many students, families, and staff who shared their ideas and helped to generate these new school names.”

Bob RodgersBob Rodgers, principal of the Discovery Trails Online School. (file photo)

Bob Rodgers is the principal of the elementary/middle school online school that has grown to serve about 440 students in grades 1 to 9.

"The part I'm happiest with is the relationships that students have created with the teachers and with each other, and the community we've started to build."

He says being able to create that connection without being physically present in the classroom was the biggest question on their mind at the beginning of the school year. 

What they've discovered is the relationship is as strong, if not stronger, because of the individual attention teachers can provide to their students, he says. Plus with Zoom, there are fewer distractions than faced in the classroom.

"It removes some of the barriers that are present in a physical school, sort of the opposite of what we might intuitively have expected. It's actually easier to create relationships and build a community with our kids."

He says social interaction is important to a child's education, whether it be a physical or online school. Currently, the Discovery Trails Online School has about six school clubs, including a film club, drama, gay-straight alliance, and leadership group. 

He says in the coming school year they will offer even more and further build upon their leadership group.

"The first year has been sound, very solid, and we've got a great group of people. We want even more next year."

The Terry Fox School Run was their first opportunity to hold an in-person event. They set up meeting locations in Cochrane, Airdrie, and Chestermere and had a virtual version available, something that will continue to be offered as an alternative to all in-person events.

They'll be holding their first field trip in May, and plan to offer several throughout the next school year. 

"This year was our first step. Next year, we're going to swim even harder, and live all the dreams that we've had this year."

As fewer students become COVID-affected, he anticipates the student population will change.

He's confident they have created online schools that will appeal to students outside of the division.

"We're looking to the entire province. We've got a fantastic program, and it's very affordable."

He believes the permanent names for the two schools speak to their purpose in a meaningful way.

"In school, you want to know where they came from. We also want them to see where they're going, and the trails are what do that, and walking those trails is a journey of discovery. So they're discovering where they've been, where they're coming from, and where they're going.

"If I can be a little poetic, as they look in the distance they see the summits towards which they are going and that's the Summit Trails Online High School. 

"Metaphorically, it fits our names in a wonderful synastry of our two schools' connection to each other."

Registration is now open for the 22-23 school year. More information can be found on RVS’ website.