Story Credit: Nelson Garcia, 9 News
“I was working on a ranch at the time that school started and I didn’t want to go back to public school,” Jacob Leyba, 16 years old, said.
Leyba did enroll in public school. He signed up for Denver Online High School to take classes on his own schedule and location. He was working on a ranch near Steamboat Springs.
“The flexibility is what makes ranchers successful,” Leyba said.
Ian Jones is principal of Denver Online High School. He says all sorts of students need that flexibility.
“We have some skiers, snowboarders,” Jones said. “We have a girl who’s in the roller derby.”
Jones says his school offers rigorous classes online that challenge students minds more than their schedule.
“Really, that’s the motto of Denver Online is ‘Do More,’” Jones said.
Leyba would take his laptop computer with him on the range to complete his assignments.
“I would go out with my backpack, a lunch, my horse and gallon jug of water and we’d ride out and we’d keep track of the goats,” Leyba said. “Often times, it would come down to when the goats laid down. I’d get off my horse, work on the paper and when they start moving, save it, close it, pack it, get back on the horse and go.”
Jones smiles when he hears that story.
“That’s fun to hear, you know,” Jones said. “That type of situation is exactly what we’re built for.”
Right now, Denver Online has about 235 students.He wants to see the program grow to around 400 students.
“Kept it small over the past few years, so we can get it right,” Jones said. “I think that’s really the key is to get it right.”
Socially, Jones does work to make sure his students have opportunities to be active. Denver Online has a community service program and offers a learning center for 9th and 10th graders to meet once-a-week.
“Just because you have to do your work behind a computer screen doesn’t mean that you are getting any less human interaction,” Leyba said.
He says he makes friends through his interests like ranching and livestock.
“I’ve been asked to Homecoming multiple times even though I do online school,” Leyba said.
Jones says his school is a good fit for students who are very social.
“That’s why they flourish here because they’ve got something outside of school that is keeping them socially active,” Jones said.
Leyba says his online classes keep him academically interested while he also gains knowledge about his passion, agriculture.
“Going out in the world and actually learning skills is better than sitting in the classroom and hearing about skills,” Leyba said.
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