The TOPS Story - Part 1

It's no doubt much easier to build a virtual school than it is to design and build a school building. However, it begs the question: what is a school? The answer is actually more abstract than concrete. Any school at its very heart is a learning institution. Some schools take on many roles serving as the center of the community or a common gathering place. Sometimes schools are the place a child eats. Sometimes schools are a sanctuary from violence outside of their walls. 

When designing a school, we didn't have to think about materials, structure, colors, but we did have to consider what the school would mean to the students. With learning as the backbone of everything, what cultural aspects of our school would need be in place for the students at our school? 

In the very beginning, we didn't know who our clientele would be. We assumed we'd have students with needs that weren't being met in traditional schools. However, anticipating what those needs would be was problematic because we were serving students statewide. 

Because our school would be "different," it would be important to try to reverse the negative perceptions that always follow being something other than a traditional high school. The questions about our school were always filled with assumptions such as "You're an alternative school, right?" "Why can't your students just go to school every day like other kids?" It was as if the assumption was always there was something wrong with our students. It turns out, our students have either not found their place in traditional school or they have interests outside of school that they couldn't pursue if they had to stick to a traditional school schedule.