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Online learning is a perfect fit for some students, says online school principal

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SALT LAKE CITY — As the summer debate boils about whether schools should be open for in-person learning or not this fall, at least one educator believes online learning can be just as good as it can be in person, if not better.

Dr. DeLaina Tonks, principal of online charter school Mountain Heights Academy, says a good digital curriculum is much better than that seen by many students when schools closed at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

She says what students saw earlier this year when education was quickly shifted from in-person to online was online crisis learning. And she takes exception to recent comments at a Salt Lake City School District Board meeting wherein a board member said that digital learning is “lazy.”

“Online teaching is just a lazy way to teach children.  I can give you example after example after example of what happened over the spring,” said Precinct 2 representative Michael Nemelka a the meeting.

Comments like that are tragic and insulting,” Tonks told Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News on KSL Newsradio. “Everybody was an online teacher last spring, right? … [I’m not sure that’s how we should] portray our teachers across the state.”

She says that the shift in March happened at the drop of a hat, but online curriculums built around online learning can be incredibly beneficial. 

Tonks notes that some kids might have health issues that can make attending regular class difficult.  “A program where they can log in on their own time… is going to be a better fit for that student.

“We have students at Mountain Heights Academy who travel the world, students who are in the performing arts who know what they want to be when they grow up … They just take their laptops with them and fit school in around the rest of their life.”

She says the thought that online teachers are lazy is nonsense. She says right now everybody is an online teacher in the age of a modern-day health pandemic. She says often you can get more from an online instructor, including more individual time and instruction at a time that’s convenient for that student.

It remains to be seen what the life of the Salt Lake City School District student’s life will look like come fall.  The School Board’s last vote was to delay the start of class, in-person or online, to September 8th.  Board members voted to postpone the decision on whether or not they’ll reopen classrooms to a later date. 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States