Indiana Agriculture & Technology School is a new tuition-free, statewide charter school that couples online learning with labs and project-based activities on a working farm. 
Courtesy of Indiana Agriculture & Technology School
Indiana Agriculture & Technology School is a new tuition-free, statewide charter school that couples online learning with labs and project-based activities on a working farm. Courtesy of Indiana Agriculture & Technology School

Those behind the Indiana Agriculture & Technology School say they’re changing the game for online schools.

And they’re doing so by keeping the enrollment low and the student accountability high.

IATS is a new tuition-free, statewide charter school that couples online learning with labs and project-based activities on a working farm. 

The online school looks to provide a more individualized touch than traditional online schools, and its programming can be tailored to help students get a solid head start on their chosen career paths, said Tammy Sander, the school’s media relations specialist.

“This is a tailored experience for each student,” she said.

Students will have the choice to determine when, where and how they learn based on individual needs, interests and talents, according to the school’s website. 

To be able to provide better connectivity with educators and support staff, the school is keeping its enrollment intentionally small — with enrollment capped at 160 students per grade level. This will ensure that students don’t get lost in the virtual world, said Keith Marsh, the school’s executive director and chief academic officer.

“At least four teachers will be assigned to each enrolled student for each course taken,” he said.

There’s a reason the program has built in so much support and accountability: “We expect our kids to graduate,” Marsh said. 

Each student is assigned a licensed teacher, success coach, concept coach and student learning advocate, who is also a licensed teacher, he said. 

“You’re not just getting online and doing your work,” Marsh said. “You’re connecting with an educator every day. You aren’t going to find that in any other virtual program.”

And while providing a solid education and applicable real-world skills for all students is the school’s nuts and bolts, sparking an interest in agriculture is the chrome.

“Agriculture is a key to Indiana’s economic foundation,” Allan Sutherlin, one of the school’s founders, said in a press release. “But many farmers are aging out and the next generation needs more than just an apprenticeship.”

Sutherlin said we’re at the dawn of a revolution in agricultural technology and innovation with data-driven solutions to precision farming.

“We must address that workforce challenge,” he said.

And through the school’s agriculture offerings, school officials hope to do that. 

Sponsored by the Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson United School Corp. in Trafalgar, IATS is open to grade levels 7-12 and the school’s graduates will receive an accredited Indiana high school diploma. 

With 204 state-accredited courses, online coursework is offered for Core 40, Core 40 Honors, and Core 40 Technical Honors diploma programs. AP opportunities are also provided, and the school is partnering with Ivy Tech Community College to provide dual-enrollment courses. The school’s career pathway opportunities include agriculture, aviation, information technology, bioscience and manufacturing.

In addition to coursework, on-campus lab work will be offered at the school’s 600+ acre farm in Morgan County. One-third of the land is pasture, one-third tillable crop, and one-third classified forest which will allow students to study biosciences, agribusiness, information technology, environmental science, forestry and drones.

The monthly, farm-based lessons are supplemental to the online lessons but are not required, and free transportation is available to the farm located in Morgantown, Sander said.

An informational and enrollment session was held in Kokomo on March 22, and three local students registered at the event, she said. 

Enrollment is still open, with classes starting July 30. The school will host an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the farm, 1982 S. Morgantown Road, Morgantown.

To learn more, visit indiana.ag or call 317-975-2746.