When the first day of school rolls around in August, Webster math teacher Lori Wagner won’t be heading back to the classroom.

Instead, she’ll be heading to her basement.

Wagner is one of nine new teachers hired by the Center for Statewide E-learning at Northern State University with a $1 million budget increase. The money is courtesy of the Blue Ribbon Task Force and, more specifically, a half-cent sales tax increase passed during the legislative session. The bulk of the new money is to increase K-12 teacher pay at public schools, but the distance learning center is also a beneficiary, able to increase services.

Wager has set up a virtual classroom in her basement. She’ll be teaching Algebra II and possibly pre-calculus to students across the state.

“Being able to take a position like this, and being a certified math teacher with 27 years of experience, I can take that into their classroom without anybody leaving or moving and making it a positive impact on these kids,” she said.

The new teachers and the classes added are different than the offerings the center has had in the past, said E-learning Principal Mary Cundy. They are core courses required for high school graduation in South Dakota.

“The courses are all new,” Cundy said. “There was a lot of work to be done. The new teachers have actually been working from home during the summer.”

Next page: How the center determines which courses schools need

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