A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Newport School of Innovation finds success in online learning for non-traditional students

By Patrick Crowley
Newport Independent Schools

Jessica West couldn’t concentrate while she was working. She worried non-stop about her daughter, Ariana, who was having a difficult time at a Northern Kentucky public high school.

“It started when she was in middle school,” West said. “Some girls who used to be her friends turned on her. They made her feel insecure. They bullied her. They said terrible things about her. It was horrible and very traumatic. Her grades suffered. She even attempted suicide. I could hardly do my job. All I could think of all day was if my daughter was okay.”

Then she heard about The Newport School of Innovation (NSOI), which launched less than a year ago, utilizing mostly online learning to serve students who do not fit into a traditional classroom setting.

“It’s been amazing,” West said. “Ariana is so happy. She is back to getting A’s and B’s. She started as a junior and already has enough credits to be a senior. Her confidence is back. She wants to go to college to become a veterinarian. I can go to work and not have to worry all day. The school is a blessing.”

Josh Snapp

In less than a year in existence, NSOI is exceeding enrollment expectations with more than 50 students who are succeeding with the school’s vibrant and creative approach to education.

“The traditional classroom setting does not work for our students, so that’s why they are here,” said Josh Snapp, the district’s Innovation Coordinator who is overseeing the NSOI. “Here, students are more relaxed, they take advantage of flex scheduling and that leads to successful independent learning. From all indications, NSOI is working.”

NSOI is designed for students who are homeschooled, do not fit into a traditional setting, want to graduate early, or have family or personal issues that prevent their regular attendance in a classroom during normal school hours.
NSOI Guidance Counselor Shaun Mullins said even though the school has been in operation less than a year, students are thriving through the school of innovation model.

“We are helping students who have struggled in the past to thrive in a classroom environment,” Mullins said. “These are students who may be dealing with anxiety, who may have to work to help their families and who can’t attend classes during the day.”

Data collected during NSOI’s first-year points to success at not just educating students, but also encouraging students – both in and outside of the Newport Independent School District – who had left school to return and pursue a degree:

• Of 209 active courses, 188 have a grade of 70% or greater.
• The average grade across all courses is 81%.
• 13% of students returned to school after dropping out of a traditional high school.
• Seven students have moved into the district to attend the school.

The data is not only showing success but is also providing valuable insight that can be used to make future changes and improvements to the NSOI.

“We are just getting started,” Snapp said. “And the word is out. We are getting four to five applications per week.”

Newport Independent Schools Superintendent Kelly Middleton said NSOI is an example of the school district taking a proactive approach to ensuring that all students receive a quality education and the ability to pursue successful career opportunities.

NSOI has become so popular the district may need more space to handle all the students who are entering the program, he said.

“It is cutting edge and another way of how Newport is a leader in engaging all of our students, even those who do not fit into the traditional classroom model,” Middleton said. “We don’t leave anyone out. We bring them in.”

Students learn through attending classes with individualized instruction and through online courses. Some were homeless and living on the streets, but attending NSOI has given them the time and opportunity to attend school and also find jobs and housing.

“Some students only come in to take a test,” Snapp said. “They are studying 25 hours a week at home.”

Students who experienced discipline issues in other environments are excelling at NSOI.

“We have students that were disruptive and had bad behavior in the traditional setting,” Snapp said. “That’s not the case here. We have had just one discipline incident since opening the doors.”

Other opportunities at NSOI include tutoring, elective and post-secondary courses, internships, and community service projects, which are required.

NSOI has partnerships with the Campbell County Library, Brighton Center social services, Northern Kentucky University and Gateway Community and Technical College. And Snapp and Mullins have met with more than 30 Newport business owners and operators, seeking input on skills employers look for when hiring high school students and graduates.


“This model motivates students,” Mullins said, “who weren’t motivated before. They let their guard down. Their anxiety goes away. They want to be involved. They are learning that with hard work comes a return. They become inspired.”

Students and parents can learn more and apply for classes by visiting the Newport School of Innovation page on the Newport Independent Schools website. Online programs and classes are available for students in grades 6 through 12 for students in Newport as well as throughout Northern Kentucky.

“We would like to thank the Newport Board of Education for creating the NSOI and for having faith that we can make this into a strong school for the district,” Snapp said. “We know it will take time, but with time we can continue to build a stronger school that will open a new world for our students.”

“We know the school is not perfect,” Snapp continued, “But with each year, the school will continue to empower students to take charge of their own future.”
NSOI offers four programs that are designed to meet the needs of students across the region:


Trailblazer accepts 6th through 12th-grade students whose parents would like to homeschool with educational guidance, support, and extracurricular opportunities. A Huddle course is recommended for students which meets twice a week. No state testing is administered, but MAP testing is encouraged to show progress. The cost of Trailblazer is $60 per month.

Go Steady

Go Steady is for 9th through 12th-grade students who are expecting, a young parent, caring for a family member, or students who need a more flexible schedule in order to work. Coursework is delivered digitally. Many students participate in family literacy programs and independent living seminars. Students are required to attend testing preparation and state testing. 

Ascend is for 9th through 12th-grade students who would like to either graduate early or would like the opportunity to receive dual credit classes to get a jump start on their post-secondary education. Coursework is delivered primarily digitally, however, students must attend a Huddle course and attend state testing.

The CARE program is for 6th through 12th-grade students who have difficulty fitting into a traditional learning environment. These students may have anxiety or may be struggling with a private issue. Coursework is delivered primarily digitally, however, students must attend a Huddle or POW WOW course and attend state testing

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One Comment

  1. Do you help people over 60 get their GED if they want it but have to do it online when they want

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