North Fork School uses VoIP technology to teach students around the world

story by Tomi Grote for The Star News in McCall, Idaho

North Fork School, a tuition-based private educator in McCall, uses Skype VolP technology to teach students who live in other states, travel on exchange programs, or take extended trips for competitive sports or family vacations.

Students from all over the country and Europe have used the technology to continue their progress in North Fork curricula, even during years when they are not receiving local high school credits for their foreign study classes.

Skype access also allows students to attend class when they are unable to attend school due to sickness or injury. Often, students can listen and participate in classes that they would otherwise miss when they are healing at home.

“[My siblings and I] ‘Skype' in on an actual classroom almost like we were sitting in a chair next to another student. Our class consists of eight students, four of whom are actually in the classroom,” explains Thomas Yonke, an 8th grader from Pennsylvania. “Skype makes things a bit more entertaining than just staring at a computer screen full of dull words you don’t have much interest in. I prefer to listen to people share their ideas.”

Students who attend class via Skype are mailed books and worksheets to read and complete as they are assigned throughout the semester. Most assignments are transferred between the student and the classroom through technology such as email, Dropbox, fax, and Skype.

Tuition and expenses are the same for Skype families as for local students, except for a slight additional fee for printing costs unique to this online access.

All North Fork School offerings are available online via Skype. Students need not be local to participate, which is particularly attractive to parents who are considering moving to the area this year, but are worried that they need to finish a school year where they are now, said Marie Furnary, owner and principal at the school. It’s also a great option for students who attend school in Cascade, New Meadows, and Boise, where distance makes physical attendance inconvenient, she said.

New students may enroll in North Fork classes, either at the school’s McCall facility or online, any time during the school year, but enrollment is especially encouraged at quarter breaks. North Fork’s school calendar follows that of McCall-Donnelly public schools.

North Fork School is a private, fully-accredited institution that is not affiliated with any religious demonination. Most students are also enrolled in local public schools and take selected courses at the private school, although the curriculum, which concentrates on English studies, social sciences and math in grades 6 through 12, is open to home schooled students as well as to off-site, online students.

The typical North Fork student opts to study one or more subjects offered by North Fork at the private school instead of taking similar instruction offered by McCall-Donnelly High School or Payette Lakes Middle School. The remainder of the students’ instruction is taken at local public schools.

North Fork students laud the school for increased individual attention, challenging academics, smaller class size and attention to personal discipline as a means to achieve success. The school points to statistics that claim its students regularly perform at the top levels in achievement tests and in their college classes. Financial aid is available to qualified lower-income students.

For more information about the school and its offerings, visit thenorthforkschool.com. The next semester break is in mid-January.

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