Orion High School Turns 10!

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In the fall of 2006 Orion High School was conceptualized and the planning process began to open a digital high school - at the time, we called them virtual high school.  Lots of things have changed in ten year, especially in the area of digital learning.  One thing that has not changed at Orion, however, is our driving passion to be the high school that is different because we treat our learners as partners in their own education.  The motto of Empowering Learning. Renewing Hope. is the motto that really explains our deeply held beliefs about teaching and learning.  We believed back then, and we believe today, that if we empower people to take control of their own education, then there should be a renewed hope in what education could be.  We introduce 2017 with the adoption of our 10th anniversary logo.  What is is the same about our logo are our colors (navy blue and gold), along with what we call, "The Big O" - the graduation designation - the pinnacle of learner's education at our school - the graduation hat!  Take a tour with us down memory lane.

This is the first part in what will be a series of articles dedicated to Orion's tenth year.  Enjoy this part.


In 2006, Dr. Gallegos and a group like-minded teacher/educators (David Singleton, Shannon Baker-Davis, Sophie Valdez, Linroy Kilgore), set out to design content for a school who had already received a name by the founder.  Orion (the constellation - pronounced Or - eye - un), is a constellation that can truly be seen from all parts of the world.  Naturally, it should be the name of a pioneering virtual high school that had the potential to be a school without borders - a school for all learners, not matter where they live.  Dr. Gallegos and friends met at the local fast-food restaurant, and began developing courses that would be the core courses for Orion High School.


Orion Leaerning ProjectIn January - July of 2007 the core courses were completed, and the initial website was built.  Dr. Gallegos worked with a small group of (female) Russian programmers o develop a learning management system (called an LMS), which would allow students to view content, communicate via asynchronous forums, and have access to a live teacher (called the mentor), who would meet with the learners on Adobe Connect, once weekly for learner presentations. 

The school opened in August 2007, and was called the Orion Learning Project. The Orion Learning Project was named as such because, at the time, there were little to no other virtual schools that worked like Orion was to work (mentor-learner relationship as the cornerstone).  The Orion Learning Project, as you can see on the original logo to the left, demonstrated Orion's commitment to the motto- Empowering Learning. Renewing Hope; a commitment to the colors; and represented the power of the new digital school without boundary lines.

The school opened to 10 students who had dropped out of high school, and who were put on 'scholarship', which would allow them to attend Orion High School as recovered dropouts.  The ten students began their course work, studying under the original founder (listed above), as the original mentors.  All of the mentors lived locally, so collaboration was often, and, face-to-face.

The Russian Programming Group (called the Pilot Group), had designed a very powerfuLMSl, interactive dating application.  The dating application had chat rooms, IM ability, and a discussion forum that members could attend.  The programmers added some options like an online library; lesson making templates; report cards; and the ability for Orion to upload our modules into the LMS.  The LMS became the Orion High School LMS, and, although it was seemingly primitive, it was effective.

The LMS, seen to the right, had an integrated Course Catalogue that was collaboratively developed, and updated news and events could be easily accessed.  Check out that logo!  The Orion High School logo was created (again with the colors) to represent a more modern look for a high school (hence the funky lettering).  That logo was used until 2009, when the BigO logo was adopted.


The first group of learners graduated in 2008, and entered into local colleges under a law in Texas that would allow students who were home schooled, to matriculate into college.  Orion utilized that law at the time because there wasn't the ability to apply for virtual high school accreditation (that came two years later).


In 2009, Orion High School applied to become accredited by CITA.  CITA stands for the Commission on International and Trans-regional Accreditation.  CITA represented regional accreditation agencies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, was was an early accreditation for what was quickly becoming a large landscape of online schools.  Orion High School was granted candidacy status by SACS, and received a small-scale visit (two people), who came to Midland, TX to describe what accreditation would be.  There were no virtual school standards for accreditation, so all schools were treated equally no matter whether they were brick-and-mortar or not.


2010 was the year that Orion High School received a visit, by what had become AdvancED (short for Advance Education).  AdvancED had taken over the accreditation services that CITA had once offered.  The benefits for schools like Orion, were enormous.  Orion High School was accredited in 2010 for the first time.

In the same year, Orion High School received approval by the NCAA Clearinghouse (now called the Eligibility Center).  That approval meant that potential division one athletes could attend Orion and earn credits and/or could graduate from Orion High School.

The LMS was upgraded to a more modern look, that integrated the mentor meeting inside of each of the courses rooms.  Orion continued to add courses and to recruit students into the school.




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